The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) is calling for pharmacists to take a central role in the mental health care of those who have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a new paper published last week, the body said pharmacy is ‘one of the most accessible of health professional groups’ and is therefore a ‘crucial component’ of mental health treatment.

This comes as recent findings revealed the number of adults experiencing some form of depression in the UK has doubled during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The figures, published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), also showed that one in five people have depressive symptoms compared with one in ten the same time last year.

The body said pharmacists have a major role to play in identifying people who are struggling with their mental health, as well as ‘increasing access to support for people experiencing poor mental health’.

Pharmacists can also support patients with prescribed medication and communication across the health care settings for effective transfer of care, the RPS said.

It added that pharmacy professionals must also be ‘well equipped’ for the potential future surge of people with mental health and wellbeing needs, and those who continue to struggle in the aftermath of the pandemic.

‘Fully-equipped to respond’

Sandra Gidley, president of the RPS, said: ‘The experience of illness and grief caused by the outbreak, together with isolation, economic instability and sudden changes to everyday life, have severely affected the nation’s mental health.

‘The pandemic has affected people with existing mental health conditions and created a whole new level of depression and distress in those previously unaffected.

She added: ‘We want pharmacists fully equipped to respond and feel confident to do so. The only way to manage the potential tsunami of mental health need is as part of a coordinated approach in collaboration with other agencies and healthcare colleagues.

‘We truly are ‘all in this together’ and must work across the NHS to support each other and the health of those affected by the pandemic.’

Back in May, some pharmacists reported a rise in patients presenting with new or exacerbated mental health issues, but warned that they needed more 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.