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Healthy living pharmacies to play 'stronger role' in future of NHS

Community pharmacies will play a stronger role in the DH’s plans to make prevention “an integral part” of its long-term plan for the NHS.

Launching its ‘Prevention is better than cure’ strategy this morning (November 5), the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) said it will “put prevention at the heart of the NHS long-term plan” and greater focus will be put on “primary and community care services and the value they can bring in offering early support”.

As part of this, it will “encourage more people to make the most of their local pharmacy” and will push for “local pharmacies to play a strong role in helping people stay well in the community”, it said in its document.

“There are already almost 10,000 community pharmacies registered as healthy living pharmacies in England. They deliver a wide range of lifestyle and health interventions, and promote wellbeing and self-care services,” the DH said.

Community pharmacists in “unique position”

The DH stated in the document that “primary care services”, such as community pharmacy, GPs, dentistry and optometry, are a “central part of our vision”, which means “prevention is everyone’s business”.

“Over the course of our lives, our first and most frequent interactions with health and social care services are likely to be with our GP, school nurse, dentist, local pharmacist, social worker, health visitor or midwife,” the DH said.

“These professionals are in a unique position to influence and guide our lifestyle choices, and to spot when we might need help.”

To support primary care, GPs will work more closely “with other professionals, such as pharmacists”, potentially “working together in the same building, or collaborating virtually, as a network”, the DH outlined.

Funding and support

Health secretary Matt Hancock said the extra £20.5 billion a year promised by prime minister Theresa May to the NHS in June, gives the DH “a unique opportunity to radically change the focus of health and social care onto prevention”.

While he did not reveal how the extra funds will be allocated, Mr Hancock said “in practice” the DH's new prevention vision will require “greater funding for pre-primary, primary and community care – and support for the staff who work in these services”.

The DH has committed to publish the first ever green paper on prevention in the first half of next year, which “will set out our plans in more detail”.

RPS: Prevention plans needs investment

Royal Pharmaceutical Society English board chair Sandra Gidley said the DH’s strategy “rightly recognises the key role of healthy living pharmacies in offering accessible lifestyle advice or stop smoking services”.

However, “after continued pressure on local authority budgets and cuts to public health services, this vision will need to be matched by appropriate investment”, she said.

“As we ask pharmacists to do more, the resources, support and training also need to follow suit,” Ms Gidley added.

PSNC “pleased” at pharmacy recognition

Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee chief executive Simon Dukes said he is “pleased” the DH recognised the role community pharmacy can play in helping people to stay well.

“We agree with [Mr Hancock] that we must do more to support preventative healthcare – this should help both people to live longer, healthier lives, and the health service to manage the increasing demands being placed on it.

“Community pharmacies are ideally placed to help people to stay healthy and avoid visits to hospital – and look forward to working with the government to make this shared vision a reality.”

NPA: Community pharmacy’s “unusual” position

National Pharmacy Association chief executive Mark Lyonette pointed out: “Pharmacies are unusual in the health service in that they are present in greater numbers in the most deprived areas, therefore bucking the so-called inverse care law.”

Emphasising community pharmacy as a “front door to health”, Mr Lyonette said the opportunity for intervention by community pharmacists who “daily encounter millions of apparently healthy people as well as people seeking treatment for known ill health” is “considerable”.

The NPA briefed officials developing the plan that “more screening, diagnostic capacity and ongoing monitoring services in pharmacies would help improve outcomes in relation to cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions and cancer – three of the clinical priorities identified by NHS England”, he added.

CCA: Pharmacy can be “natural home of health promotion”

Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) chief executive Malcolm Harrison said community pharmacy “already helps prevent illness through its advocacy of self-care, provision of flu vaccinations, stop smoking support, blood pressure checks and more”.

“We believe that better integration with other parts of the health system, along with the right commissioning and funding frameworks, would allow community pharmacy to become the natural home of health promotion and prevention of ill health,” Mr Harrison added.

Last month, Mr Hancock exclusively told C+D that community pharmacy is “incredibly important in the whole prevention agenda” and he wants to “move towards the French model for pharmacies, where they do more”.

What role can community pharmacy play in the NHS long-term plan?

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