Long-term NHS plans should include health checks in community pharmacies, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has urged.

Responding to NHS England’s consultation on the development of the long-term plan, which closed on 30 September, the lobbying body called on the Government to commission a nationally-led health check service through community pharmacies.

In July, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock pledged to invest in pharmacy as part of the NHS long-term plan, which will be accompanied by a £20.5bn cash injection by 2023/24.


‘Preventative’ solutions to individuals


The NPA said that a national NHS health check service in pharmacy could help address health inequalities across the country, with pharmacists providing ‘complete, immediate and preventative’ healthcare solutions to individuals.

The NPA wrote in its response: ‘Following the NHS health check, community pharmacists would be able to screen and provide more of the routine management for common long-term conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and asthma.

‘This proposal has been explored on a number of occasions and in some areas the community pharmacies have been commissioned to undertake this service. However, this is not consistent, leading to a variation of uptake of health checks.’


‘Proactive’ in patient care


The NPA would also like to see more screening, diagnostic and ongoing monitoring in pharmacies to help improve cancer outcomes and reduce the incidence of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases – all three being clinical priorities identified by the NHS in the long-term plan.

‘Community pharmacy straddles health and social care. Building on their core role of safely supplying medicines, community pharmacists are able to provide personalised healthcare and lifestyle advice, as well as be proactive in the care of their patients,’ the lobbying group added.


Five critical tests


According to the NPA, the success of the long-term plan depends on ‘five critical tests’:

  1. The NHS will be a truly ‘neighbourhood’ health service as well as a national health service, with more services provided close to home by providers embedded in local communities
  2. The NHS will be maximising the use of technology to achieve efficiencies without losing the human touch in health care, characterised by advice, support and face-to-face treatment
  3. The health service will look more like a wellness service than an illness service, with an effective programme for prevention and health improvement.
  4. The potential of the entire health and social care workforce will be realised – not only doctors and nurses but local pharmacists and many others.
  5. The poorest patients and communities will benefit from the new investment and the differences in health outcomes between the better off and worse off will reduce significantly.