A UK report has quantified the increasing role played by community pharmacies in public health.
The community pharmacy offer for improving the public’s health, published by the Local Government Association, is aimed at describing the pharmacy role and explaining councils’ roles and duties.
“Many people think of pharmacies only as places to have their prescriptions dispensed and to buy health and cosmetic products over-the-counter,” the report says.
“However, in recent years, pharmacy teams have engaged in a wide range of public health services from help to stop smoking, to sexual health services and advice on diet and nutrition.
“Pharmacies are located at the heart of communities, with trusted professional on site who reflect the social and ethnic backgrounds of their residents.”
The report states that not only are community pharmacies a valuable health asset, but an important social asset, particularly in deprived communities. Like Australia, the UK is examining ways to tackle chronic disease and the report highlights that pharmacy can be key.
“The new models of care being piloted across the country with the guidance of NHS England provide a real opportunity for pharmacy to be involved in tackling and reducing the impact of chronic diseases.
“Clinical pharmacists in GP practices have a tremendous opportunity to promote health and wellbeing messages when they are optimising the use of medicines, especially for people with long term conditions.”
The report discusses the role of local government in producing pharmaceutical needs assessments (which inform the NHS when considering new pharmacy applications, among other functions), commissioning public health services (such as quit smoking, alcohol harm reduction services, weight management services and needle and syringe exchanges) from community pharmacies and supporting the development of community pharmacy.
It also discusses the Making Every Contact Count approach to health which in the pharmacy channel means using every patient interaction as an opportunity for a health intervention.
It lists facts about the practical role pharmacy plays in public health:
- 6 million people in the UK visit a pharmacy each day (1.2 million for health reasons);
- 79% of people have visited a pharmacy at least once in the last year, with 37% visiting at least once a month;
- Nearly a billion prescription items were dispensed by English pharmacies in 2014/5;
- 95% of people are a 20-minute walk or less away from a pharmacy;
- over 9,000 pharmacies in England supported Smoke Free January in 2015
- over 90 per cent of pharmacies now have a private consultation room and many have already taken on a wider public health role