Community pharmacies need to be more involved in their local primary care networks (PCNs) if they are to help tackle health inequalities, the RPS has said in response to a NICE consultation draft on pharmacies’ role in health and wellbeing. 

Being the most frequented healthcare setting in England, community pharmacies have a large role to play in the health and wellbeing of the population, according to the draft guidance published by NICE in January.

One quality standard published in the guidance, which is due to be published in full in June, calls for community pharmacies to provide support to ‘other agencies, primary care networks and commissioners in establishing the population’s needs as well as gaps in locally commissioned services.’ 

‘Many pharmacies are well established within the community, have good relationships with the local population and a good understanding of their needs and the challenges some individuals face,’ it says.  

But although Heidi Wright, policy and practice lead at the RPS welcomed the idea of the proposal, she criticised its practicality, insisting that in order for the standard to be implemented in practice, community pharmacies need to ‘become much more integrated into their local PCNs.’

Currently, pharmacies have no way of sharing the information they have on the local population, she said. 

'Pharmacies need to become much more integrated into their local PCN', she said, claiming that the current system in place means that there is no way of sharing the information pharmacies have on their local population. 

‘The services that community pharmacies provide need to be highlighted to link workers so they can be included in social prescribing services,’ she added. 

She also noted the term ‘health inequalities’ is very broad and needs to be defined more clearly in the context of the statement made by NICE. 

PSNC also criticised the proposal, suggesting that even if the measures were put in place to make the collection of the information on population health possible, it would take ‘a great deal of time and resources’ which may be better spent elsewhere.

However, PSNC suggested that local commissioners and Local Pharmaceutical Committees (LPCs) may be able to collate evidence.

Community pharmacies: promoting health and wellbeing’, is potential guidance for community pharmacy on how they can help maintain and improve people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing, including people with long-term conditions.

The NPA responded positively to the draft, saying: 'This quality standard helpfully acknowledges the huge potential that pharmacies have to help people stay well, as well as treat people when they are poorly.'

In November, PSNC chief Simon Dukes said it is ‘bloody difficult’ for community pharmacies to collaborate with each other in PCNs due to commercial competition between pharmacies.

Since July, GP practices across England have been backed by £4.5bn in funding to work together and with other healthcare providers in local PCNs serving around 30-50,000 patients.

The new community pharmacy contract incentivises integration with PCNs as part of its updated pharmacy quality scheme (PQS), while the Government has made clear that the community pharmacy and GP contracts will continue to align.