Pharmacy Voice has raised concerns that community pharmacy has been left out of a national strategy for improving mental healthcare, written by leading charities and professional bodies.
The lobbying group highlighted the potential for pharmacy to make a difference to mental health patients, despite the sector being omitted from the strategy ‘A Manifesto For Better Mental Health', written by organisations including the Royal College of Psychiatrists and mental health charity Mind and published on Friday (August 22).
The manifesto calls on the government to put an end to mental health services being"disadvantaged" in terms of funding and mentions GPs, nurses and hospitals in its vision for better care. The Mental Health Foundation, one of the report's authors, told C+D there "wasn't room" in the publication to mention pharmacy, but said the sector was an "important part" of the future of mental healthcare.
"There's no doubt at all that that [mental health] is something the community needs to take responsibility for," a spokesperson for the Mental Health Foundation said.
Pharmacy Voice chief executive Rob Darracott stressed that there were half a billion opportunities yearly for community pharmacists to engage with the public on mental health issues, and called for their potential to be utilised. "Community pharmacies are part of the daily routine for people with mental health problems," he pointed out.
Pharmacists were key to post-diagnosis care for people with a mental illness, he said, and could support them to properly use their medicines, manage side-effects, give healthy living advice and signpost to other services.
Mr Darracott also called for antidepressants to be added to the list of medications eligible for the new medicine service (NMS). His calls echoed a recommendation in the NMS evaluation from the University of Nottingham, published earlier this month.
"Our collective attitude to mental health problems is shifting and we must build on this momentum to ensure we maximise care for the vulnerable members of our society," Mr Darracott argued.
In February, NHS Alliance chief executive Rick Stern told C+D it would be "bizarre" if pharmacy did not begin to play a larger role in supporting patients displaying the early signs of mental illness.