It’s National Ask Your Pharmacist Week from 11th to 18th November – an initiative by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) and the NHS to build public understanding of community pharmacies’ role in healthcare.
The overall campaign message is that pharmacists are highly qualified health care professionals, who can provide clinical advice conveniently in the community pharmacy setting. They work with other professionals, such as doctors and nurses, to give you the best possible care as part of the NHS team.
Your community pharmacy is the right place to go for help with common illnesses such as coughs, colds, eye infections and earache. The pharmacist can give clinical advice on many other matters too.
Up to 20 million GP consultations a year could be referred appropriately to a community pharmacist [NHS Digital 2019]. Meanwhile, 8% of emergency department consultations are for minor ailments, which would be better suited to self-care supported by local pharmacies.
Each day 1.6 million people visit a pharmacy, not all seeking treatment for known ill-health. So the opportunity for pharmacists to promote good health and disease prevention is also considerable.
The NHS Long Term Plan promises to “make greater use of community pharmacists’ skills and opportunities to engage patients”. A new five year contract with the NHS will bringa pipeline of clinical service developments, starting with the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS).
The CPCS enables NHS 111 to refer patients to community pharmacies for help with a minor illness or for an emergency supply of a medicine that they have previously been prescribed. It places pharmacies formally in the NHS pathway for urgent care.
This will be followed by pharmacy based screening for hypertension and atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat); a palliative care medicines service; and a medicines reconciliation service which will address risks related to the transfer of care between hospital and community settings.
All pharmacies will become accredited ‘Healthy Living Pharmacies’ with a team skilled to support behaviour change such as stopping smoking or taking up physical exercise.
Although many patients will be disappointed to see Medicines Use Reviews phased out (by 2021/22), the prospect of the medicines reconciliation service and the continuation of the New Medicine Service (consultation based support for people newly prescribed a medicine for a long term condition) signifies that community pharmacy still has a significant role in medicines optimisation.
It must be said that this is set against the backdrop of a rather fraught funding situation, which makes investment in service development challenging to say the least – but that’s another blog for another time!
Overall, we may see community pharmacy emerging as a local ‘front door to health’, being both a key part of the NHS frontline and a neighbourhood facility offering wellbeing services and support for independent living. This would significantly improve access to care and release capacity elsewhere in the NHS.
As pharmacies move further into the clinical service arena, there is an ongoing need for awareness initiatives like Ask Your Pharmacist Week, so that more people know how to get the care they need at a time and place convenient to them. I urge National Voices members to join in.
Open access campaign materials are available at www.npa.co.uk/ayp2019 and you can share messages using #askyourpharmacist. For more information or with any queries about the new services, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org