Original Research

Different models of pharmaceutical services and care in primary healthcare clinics in the Eastern Cape, South Africa: Challenges and opportunities for pharmacy practice

Amy C. Bobbins, Susan Burton, Teri-Lynne Fogarty
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 12, No 1 | a2323 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v12i1.2323 | © 2020 Amy C. Bobbins, Susan Burton, Teri-Lynne Fogarty | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 December 2019 | Published: 27 July 2020

About the author(s)

Amy C. Bobbins, Department of Pharmacy, Faculty of Health Sciences, Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Susan Burton, Pharmacy Practice Division, Faculty of Pharmacy, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa
Teri-Lynne Fogarty, Department of Pharmacy, Faculty of Health Sciences, Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa


Background: Primary health care (PHC) re-engineering forms a crucial part of South Africa’s National Health Insurance (NHI), with pharmaceutical services and care being crucial to treatment outcomes. However, owing to a shortage of pharmacists within PHC clinics, task-shifting of the dispensing process to pharmacist’s assistants and nurses is common practice. The implications of this task-shifting process on the provision of pharmaceutical services and care remains largely unstudied.

Aim: The study aimed to explore the pharmacist-based, pharmacist’s assistant-based and nurse-based dispensing models within the PHC setting.

Setting: The Nelson Mandela Bay Health District, South Africa.

Methods: A mixed methods approach was utilised comprising of Phase 1: a pharmaceutical services audit to analyse pharmaceutical service provision and Phase 2: semi-structured interviews to describe the pharmaceutical care provision within each dispensing model thematically.

Results: Pharmaceutical services partially fulfilled minimum standards within all models, however, challenges exist that limit the quality of these services. Phase 2 showed that the provision of pharmaceutical care within all models was restricted by context-related constraints, thus patient-centred activities to underpin pharmaceutical services were limited.

Conclusion: Although pharmaceutical services may have been available for all models, compromised quality of these services impacted overall quality of care. Limited pharmaceutical care provision was evident within each dispensing model. The results raised concerns about the current utilisation of pharmacy personnel, including the pharmacist, within the PHC setting. Further opportunities exist, if constraints allow, for the pharmacist to contribute to better patient-centred care.


primary health care re-engineering; pharmaceutical services; pharmaceutical care; dispensing models; task-shifting


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Crossref Citations

1. Access to chronic medicines: patients’ preferences for a last kilometre medicine delivery service in Cape Town, South Africa
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doi: 10.1186/s12875-021-01392-1