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Pharmacists urged to join wider public health workforce

Pharmacists could work alongside firemen and cleaners to improve the public's health, says the report

Pharmacists in England could form part of a 15 million-strong group to improve public health, a report by the Royal Society for Public Health has suggested

The Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) has named pharmacists an integral part of its plans to expand the public health workforce.

A group of 15 million workers - including health professionals such as pharmacists and physiotherapists, plus lay workers such as hairdressers and cleaners - could ensure public health interventions reached more people, the RSPH said in a report written with the Centre for Workforce Intelligence (CfWI).

Simple interventions such as conducting behaviour change programmes and screening the public for low level anxiety and social isolation could ease the burden placed on the 40,000-strong “core” public health workforce, said the report, commissioned by the Department of Health, Public Health England and Health Education England and published on Tuesday (July 21).

The report recommended that relevant education and training be provided to the wider workforce to implement its recommendations. This would help workers carry out the suggested activities such as taking blood pressure, measuring BMI and engaging in conversations, it said.

Equal emphasis on all occupations

The report placed an equal emphasis on input from healthcare specialists such as pharmacy teams, podiatrists and physiotherapists as it did on lay workers such as hairdressers, bar staff, welfare workers and cleaners.

Research commissioned by the RSPH suggested that the public would be willing to accept health advice from workers who were not qualified health professionals. Half of the public would trust advice from the fire service and one in four would apply the same trust to hairdressers and shop workers, found a poll of over 2,000 UK adults conducted on February 4 and 5.

RSPH chief executive Shirley Cramer said the addition to the public health workforce had “huge” potential benefits. “Tapping into this diverse range of human contact could provide significant opportunities to promote health messages and initiate or embed behaviour change through healthy conversations and signposting to other services,” she said.

Pharmacy Voice chief executive Rob Darracott stressed pharmacy had been an “early adopter in tackling public health”. Pharmacy Voice knew of “numerous examples” of public health initiatives run by local pharmacy teams, but these services were only available in “select locations, which lets the public down”, he said.

RPS English Pharmacy Board chair Sandra Gidley said pharmacy was “at the forefront of making every contact count” and played an “active part” in the NHS delivery of public health. Pharmacists “around the country” already offered patients sexual health advice, smoking cessation services and vaccinations on top of issuing self care advice and medicines expertise, she added.


What do you make of the RSPH's proposals?

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London Locum, Locum pharmacist

Hilarious. Is it a FREE service. I could do this at speakers corner in Hyde Park or maybe just stand outside a tube station, perhaps with a sign reading 'all donations welcome' Pharmacy just gets better and better.

SP Ph, Community pharmacist

Except for the Patients themselves all others are included here. How about a Plumber who works odd hours, smokes, eats junk food, etc etc (same with many others included in the list) giving advice to people not to do what they are doing ?? Great idea, in the era of funding cuts we are wasting more funds. First on these people who are coming out these ideas, then on the training, stationery and a fee for all other people who are supposed to carry out these tasks. When I go to a hairdresser, I go for a nice haircut and may a bit of gossip on what's happening around the glitterati world and not to be told how to look after myself except for my hair !!! Why does C&D give such publicity for such ideas which are not in-line with our profession? Don't they know we already do most of it (if not more) for FREE ???

Chemical Mistry, Information Technology

Why this QUANGO exists is beyond me !!

Pharmacy HLP, Manager

We do this stuff every day and some people listen some people take small steps and can change their lives for good. Had a couple loose 3 stone and 5 stone respectively last year and they kept it off, ripples from this are felt as more people who know them come asking for similar advice and a plan of action to tackle their obesity. People expect pharmacy staff to quiz them in smoking status and talk about healthy lifestyle, sometime we shy away for fear of embarrassing someone or causing offence. The rewards of success are worth it for patients and our profession. Make every contact count, that's what I teach.

Stephen Eggleston, Community pharmacist

Not to sound like I have too high an opinion of myself but I would rather be thought of as a member of a profession above cleaner & hairdresser, however laudable they are

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