The new medicines service (NMS) should be expanded to include antidepressants, pharmacists have said following the success of a Plymouth mental health pilot.
The pilot, organised by Devon LPC, involved seven healthy living pharmacies (HLPs) delivering an "NMS-style" service to patients who had been recently diagnosed with depression. Patients were each offered two consultations each, at which pharmacists provided advice on minimising side effects and reassured them about how their medicine worked, the LPC said.
Tom Kallis, manager at a Boots pharmacy in Plymouth that delivered the pilot, said the information given by pharmacists was of "great benefit" to patients and introducing antidepressants into the NMS "make sense".
The "fantastic" service, which ran in May and June, had helped patients cope with the stigma associated with antidepressants, he told C+D.
Of the 30 patients who took part in the pilot a third initially experienced side effects from their medication. One in six were uncertain whether their medicine was working the pilot revealed. The service gave pharmacists an opportunity to address these concerns, said Mr Kallis.
"It's [about] explaining how the medicines work, and saying [the effects are] completely normal. You may feel worse in the first week; you may feel that there's no effect, but it's really important to persevere and you will reap the benefits," he added.
Graham Parsons, Devon LPC's development pharmacist for HLPs in Plymouth and organiser of the pilot, said he hoped the scheme would show that delivering the NMS to patients diagnosed with depression was a "viable option".
"I don't think there's any reason why it can't be delivered. People can disengage [with their medication regime] at the start because of adverse affects and they need that extra support," he told C+D.
If pharmacists were to deliver the service nationally they would need extra training, Mr Parsons stressed, especially when talking to patients contemplating suicide.
To deliver the service, pharmacists were required to finish a one-hour training course on managing depression and attend a mental health training event in April. Of the 30 patients who took part in an initial conversation, 19 returned for a second consultation and Mr Parsons said he was pleased with the low dropout rate.
Mr Parsons plans to publish an evaluation of the pilot to determine whether there are any barriers to pharmacists delivering the service nationally.
Last month, an evaluation of the NMS recommended that the service be extended to cover more drugs, including mental health medication.