How community pharmacy can better support the NHS

17 Nov 2016

In my role as chief pharmacist at the NPA I meet a lot of dedicated pharmacists all over the country. The last few months, with government cuts hanging over us in England, have been difficult for everyone but something it has highlighted is the irreplaceable role that pharmacies play for the public.

Unfortunately, the Department of Health has not understood what pharmacies can actually deliver, and neither have they understood what patients need or want. It’s obvious that they don’t see the impact that some of these proposals will have on patient care. A lot of patients who are housebound and are dependent on the deliveries and services provided by community pharmacy will have to find care elsewhere. This is very concerning for many, particularly elderly patients, who will find it harder to access care. This will put even more strain on our NHS too.

It seems to me that the government needs to know what pharmacists are achieving at the moment and what potential pharmacy has, and that rather than trying to diminish the role of the pharmacist through cutting their services they should embrace and develop them further. Research has demonstrated that pharmacists could take a huge burden off the shoulders of the NHS, but the government does not yet seem to have taken this on board.
The NHS is changing, as it has to, with the requirements of the moment such as long-term conditions, population growth and increased life expectancy, there are various different challenges health-wise that now need to be scrutinised. There is huge potential for pharmacy to enter new arenas and provide a new set of healthcare services.

Pharmacists are embracing the needs of their local patients and providing different sorts of services; be it getting involved in mole testing to delivering flu vaccination services. It is becoming a more service orientated profession, and with that comes the need to acquire different skills. And if with more skills come more responsibility then pharmacy will be ready to take that responsibility on.

The NHS needs us, as pharmacists, to be working more collaboratively with other healthcare professionals in local areas, identifying local needs and stepping in to manage any risks in that particular area.

Pharmacies will always have a central role in safe supply of medicines. This is a function that a lot of our members do very well, and a lot of patients do appreciate the ease of going to a healthcare professional, getting the relevant services and being supplied medicines without having to book an appointment. But we can still go much further to help take pressure off GPs and A&E all over the country. I see the future of pharmacy very much developing to provide more services to benefit patients and local communities, including the care of long-term conditions such as diabetes and asthma.

We all hear about the burdens on the NHS and an increased pressure on GPs. Pharmacy can stand out as a service that helps relieve that burden; one that the public can use without having to book an appointment at a GPs or unnecessarily visiting A&E. We want to establish pharmacy even more firmly as a first point of contact for the public.

The NPA will continue to support our members and continue to highlight the importance of pharmacy to the government, the NHS and the general public too. Together, we can ensure that the NHS truly benefits from the skills of pharmacists.


Author:  Leyla Hannbeck