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Health inequalities: Time to see beyond words, accent or history, RPS says

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has called on pharmacy teams to “improve communication skills” and see each patient beyond their words, accent or history in a new health inequalities paper.

It comes as Healthwatch this week revealed that one in 10 people avoided taking up NHS prescriptions because of the cost last month.

The RPS Paper, published this week (January 11), said that pharmacy teams can do more to tackle health inequalities.

It highlighted how deprivation affects healthcare outcomes and found it is often the people suffering the “greatest inequalities who do not access the full range of services that are available”.

It also found that pharmacy services are not reaching everyone and that factors such as deprivation, language, employment, ethnicity, religion, pregnancy, and being married or in a civil partnership all affect an individual’s health outcomes.

Read more: The cost-of-living crisis is a matter of life and death for the seriously ill

The paper highlighted that men in the most deprived areas are twice as likely to die of all causes than men in the least deprived areas.

For women, life expectancy among those in the least deprived areas is increasing, whereas in the most deprived areas, life expectancy is now decreasing, the paper said.


“A good starting point”


The paper suggested that a “good starting point” for pharmacy teams is to “improve communication skills” and see each patient “beyond their words, accent or history”.

With the cost-of-living crisis exacerbating people’s health outcomes, the RPS called on pharmacy teams to help reduce these inequalities by helping patients get the best from their medicines and to live healthily.

RPS president Claire Anderson said: “It’s fantastic that pharmacy teams in every sector of pharmacy across Great Britain are providing care that can improve health inequalities, with many patients able to access pharmacy services very easily. Brilliant examples of this shine through in the paper.”

Read more: Cost of living: Pleas to scrap script charge as patients forced to reduce meds

She added: “Pharmacy should now build on these examples of best practice, using this paper as a resource to support their development, to ensure no-one feels excluded or unable to access care.

“As pharmacists, we need to think differently, proactively seek out people who may not be accessing our services, ensure we are welcoming and ultimately ensure that everyone can benefit from our support and care.”


Medicines avoided over cost


Meanwhile, new data published this week (January 9) revealed that one in 10 people avoided taking up NHS prescriptions because of fears over extra costs in December last year.

The poll of 2,000 adults in England conducted by Healthwatch also found that one in 10 avoided buying over the counter medicines they “normally rely on” and 11% avoided booking an NHS appointment because they “couldn’t afford the associated costs”.

Read more: Cost-of-living crisis: How are pharmacies supporting their staff?

In May, the government confirmed that NHS prescription fees would remain frozen at £9.35 per item “to help ease the cost-of-living pressures on households”.

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