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.