Pharmacies should be the ‘first point of call’ for people with some long-term health conditions, according to a report looking at healthcare provision from the patient's perspective.

National Voices – the leading coalition of health and social care charities in England – published a summary of findings following a discussion with its members in October last year, held on behalf of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA).

Charities represented included Allergy UK, Alzheimer’s Society, Asthma + Lung UK, the Caribbean and African Health Network, Crohn’s and Colitis UK, Diabetes UK, and Friends, Families & Travellers.

Attendees heard from the NPA’s vice chair, Nick Kaye, who spoke about the potential for pharmacies to further develop their offer within the NHS, given the right level of sustained investment.

The NHS Plan states that NHS England will work with the Government to ‘make greater use of community pharmacists’ skills and opportunities to engage with patients, while also exploring efficiencies’.

Health and care charity representatives spoke about the potential for community pharmacists to support those with long-term conditions, such as carrying out diagnostic testing and monitoring to help people manage their conditions.

The group highlighted the importance of continuity of care within pharmacies to support people with long-term conditions to manage their health.

The report said: ‘Pharmacists are often able to build relationships with patients and familiarise themselves with someone’s health needs, medication, and wider social environment. As a result, many pharmacists are able to provide personalised and continued care, and help patients better manage their condition.’

It added that pharmacies could be the ‘first point of call’ for those in a crisis, for example, people with Alzheimer’s.

Representatives from Allergy UK highlighted that one in three people in the UK has an allergy and 95 per cent of those living with an allergy could receive care and support at a community level, with community pharmacists being key to this.

However, trust was said to be vital to building relationships.

The report said: ‘A pharmacist will often build relationships with their patients over an extended period of time, this can help to build trust and a friendly front door to the NHS. Community pharmacies can help break down barriers and help patients get an earlier diagnosis or better manage their health conditions.’

There was support for pharmacist independent prescribing, such as for antibiotics to treat urinary tract infections.

It was also suggested that pharmacists can advocate for patients, using their knowledge of the health care system to ensure people are aware of their rights.

The report said: ‘This will help address health inequalities.’

A discussion was had around the ‘emerging model’ of online pharmacies. Members highlighted the need for patient choice and that access to face-to-face care ‘remains important for many people’.

The report said: ‘It is important the people feel seen, heard and taken seriously.’