The NHS ‘cannot afford to overlook’ pharmacy’s potential to reduce emergency admissions, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said.

A recent National Audit Office (NAO) report showed that almost a quarter of emergency admissions could have been avoided in 2016/17, as reported by The Pharmacist's sister publication Healthcare Leader.

Commenting on the findings, PSNC director of NHS services Alastair Buxton said: ‘As the NHS seeks to reduce emergency hospital admissions while grappling with its financial and capacity issues, it simply cannot afford to overlook the very great contribution that community pharmacy could make to these efforts.

‘We know that by helping patients to manage long-term conditions, to stay healthy and to get most benefit from their medicines, community pharmacists can help to reduce admissions and readmissions.

‘This is particularly the case for people with respiratory conditions, and where pharmacists can help people to reduce their risk of having falls.

‘Serious challenge’

The NAO report showed that the growing number of emergency admissions poses a ‘serious challenge’ to the NHS and its financial position.

In 2016/17, there were 5.8 million emergency admissions, 24% of which could have been prevented, according to the NAO.

In 2015/16, emergency admissions cost the NHS £13.7bn – a £300m (2.2%) increase on spending in 2013/14.

‘The cumulative impact of rising emergency admissions is an increased challenge to the financial and service sustainability of the NHS and the already under-pressure acute hospital system’, the report said.

‘Far from being under control’

The NAO argued that even though the NHS has done well to reduce the impact of increasing emergency admissions on hospitals, the situation is ‘far from being under control.’

It said: ‘Over the last four years, the NHS has done well to reduce this impact despite admitting more people as emergency admissions, largely by reducing length of stay and growing daycase treatment.

‘However, it cannot know if its approach is achieving enduring results until it understands whether reported increases in readmissions are a sign that some people admitted as an emergency are being discharged too soon.

‘The NHS also still has too many avoidable admissions and too much unexplained variation.’