Pharmacies can help the NHS spot mental health issues in the community, Andrew Lane, chairman of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), told radio listeners last week.
Speaking on BBC Hereford and Worcester (5 November), Mr Lane explained how pharmacies, much like family GPs, are well established in their communities and know their patients well enough to quickly ‘spot changes in their mental wellbeing’.
‘With GPs, you’re not always sure who you’re going to see when you go to the practice, if you go to the practice at all. But the pharmacist, who sees you face-to-face is that same person in the community, often there for 20-30 years, who has seen generations of families,’ he said.
Earlier this year, pharmacists reported an increase in patients showing new or exacerbated mental health issues since the first national lockdown.
Pharmacists said that during the pandemic, when GP surgeries and mental health support services have maintained a closed-door policy, more people suffering from mental health issues have turned to them for help.
Mr Lane said that pharmacy teams are appropriately placed to identify patients who are struggling and to offer support for mental health issues.
‘Many of our teams are trained dementia-friendly carers, and those pharmacists work together in a coordinated way. Pharmacists are well placed to spot mental health issues such as depression or dementia,’ he said.
‘We do not diagnose, but we are very good at spotting changes in people’s healthcare.’
Rise in mental ill health
Recent figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) revealed the number of adults experiencing some form of depression in the UK has doubled during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The data also showed that one in five people have depressive symptoms, compared with one in 10 in the same period last year.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) recently called for pharmacists to take a central role in the mental healthcare of those who have been impacted by the pandemic.
The body said pharmacy is ‘one of the most accessible of health professional groups,’ and is, therefore, a ‘crucial component’ of mental health treatment. In May, the Pharmacist reported that some pharmacists felt they needed more mental health training to support people properly. In
July, the Government outlined plans to train 50 community-based specialist mental health pharmacists, as part of a plan to expand and develop the NHS workforce.