NICE guidelines on self-harm, published yesterday, have included community pharmacy teams for the first time.

Within the ‘Safer prescribing and dispensing’ section, the guidelines refer to the role of community pharmacy staff in identifying warning signs relating to self-harm and opportunities to use consultations and medicines reviews as an opportunity to assess self-harm.

The guidelines also give principles for healthcare professionals in situations when a person presents to a healthcare professional following an episode of self-harm.

The publication of the guidelines follows a consultation earlier this year, to which the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) submitted a response.

Commenting on the publication of the guidelines, Heidi Wright, RPS Policy and Practice Lead for England, said: 'We welcome the inclusion of community pharmacy in the guidance, but more work is needed to improve two-way communication between prescribers and community pharmacy so that pharmacists and their teams can support individuals. Pharmacists working in GPs and PCNs are well placed to have these discussions.'

The guidance also comes after research from 2019, which was published in PLOS ONE and fed into the consultation, found community pharmacy staff often have a good relationship and rapport with patients after interviewing a range of staff across both independent and multiple pharmacies.

The setup of a pharmacy, which often offers longer opening hours and private consultation rooms, gave opportunities for confidential in-person interactions to support patients, it also found.

Participants revealed that they felt they would benefit from more training about suicide or self-harm awareness or prevention and clearer referral pathways to point patients to. The research also recommended further exploration into the involvement of medication in suicide and self-harm.

The paper explored the current and potential role of community pharmacy teams in self-harm and suicide prevention, both in terms of the conversations they might have with patients and products patients might access in the pharmacy.

To explore this, the study authors interviewed pharmacy staff  including dispensing/pharmacy assistants, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, pre-registration pharmacists and delivery drivers.

Since the publication of the research, Zero Suicide Alliance training for patient-facing pharmacy staff has been incorporated into the Pharmacy Quality Scheme and in 2020-21 was completed by 72,000 pharmacy staff.

Dr Hayley Gorton, who worked on the research, said: ‘I’m delighted to see that NICE are recognising that the wide role of other health care professionals and particularly highlighting community pharmacy.’