Public Health England (PHE) has called on pharmacists to support its latest public health campaign to detect early signs of cancer.
Gul Root, PHE's lead public health pharmacist, said pharmacists are in a "privileged position" of getting to know their patients, which means they may notice key symptoms of lung cancer or heart disease.
"They can therefore give someone the ‘permission’ needed to go and seek medical help to get the early diagnosis needed," Ms Root said.
PHE launched a new campaign today (July 14) that runs until October 16, to raise awareness of the symptoms of lung cancer, lung disease and heart disease.
The campaign will encourage anyone with a persistent cough, or who gets out of breath doing everyday activites, to visit their GP as it could be a sign of one of these conditions.
PHE said that lung cancer, COPD and coronary heart disease are all leading causes of death in England, and it stressed that early diagnosis “has the potential to save lives” and improve the quality of life of those living with COPD.
Dr Jodie Moffat, Cancer Research UK’s head of early diagnosis, said campaigns such as this help to improve lung cancer survival rates, as they alert people on what to look out for and encourages them to see their GP.
“Strongly encourage pharmacist involvement”
Nick Hunter, Doncaster, Rotherham and Nottinghamshire local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) chief officer, said the campaign is a great idea and added he would would “strongly encourage involvement by pharmacists”.
“With commissioner’s support it is possible to do a lot more, for example, in Doncaster we have a direct referral for chest x-ray scheme,” he said.
But Mr Hunter added that the timing of this campaign "is not helpful", because of the distraction of the government's funding cuts, Brexit and NHS England's sustainability and transformation plans.
Kent LPC chief executive officer Mike Keen told C+D that while materials, such as leaflets, are useful, the main thing to do is to talk to patients.
“I think we’re in a good position to pick up the smokers,” Mr Keen added.
The Welsh Campaign
Wales is running its own month-long ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign between July 11 and August 12.
Community Pharmacy Wales said the campaign is “sorely needed”, as Wales has the lowest survival rate in lung cancer in Europe.
Russell Goodway, Community Pharmacy Wales chief executive said community pharmacists are the “most easily accessible healthcare provider across Wales” and they have “important contributions” to helping tackle the higher than average levels of lung cancer.