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MP: Give pharmacists more training to recognise mental health issues

Pharmacists should be given “much more training” to help them recognise mental health issues and give appropriate advice, the shadow minister for mental health has told C+D.

Paula Sheriff, Labour MP for Dewsbury, called for a “fundamental rethink” of pharmacists’ roles “given that we have a crisis in primary care”.

“There is so much more a pharmacist can be doing around minor illnesses [and] health checking”, for example, but “communication” from the likes of NHS England and clinical commissioning groups “hasn't been quite right”, Ms Sheriff told C+D.

While pharmacists have a “key role to play” in managing patients with mental health problems, they need “much more training [to] identify health conditions”.

“If we have someone having a very severe psychotic episode, then clearly pharmacists will not be qualified to deliver that advice,” she told C+D.

Ms Sheriff – who served on the all-party pharmacy group prior to becoming a shadow minister – spoke to C+D at an event to launch the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) report into pharmacy’s role supporting people with mental health conditions.

“Pharmacists are highly-qualified people. Let’s start treating them as such,” she said.

Pharmacy needs a support system

RPS director of pharmacy and member experience Robbie Turner told C+D that while “there is really good training out there already…there needs to be a system” of support for pharmacy to play a bigger role in mental health.

As part of its report, the RPS called on the government and NHS England to commission pharmacists “to provide physical health monitoring and management of people with mental health conditions”, which would require pharmacists to have “full access to the patient’s record”.

The society also called for antidepressants to be included in the new medicine service and for “every mental health team to have access to a specialist mental health pharmacist”.

Watch the video below to hear what other barriers Mr Turner thinks are preventing pharmacists from playing a bigger role in mental health care.

What role do you think pharmacy can play in mental health care?

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