Pharmacists and other health professionals are in a ‘unique position’ to help people live healthy lives, the Government has said.
In a document setting out the healthcare priorities for the nation, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said today (5 November) that prevention through primary and community care services will be at the heart of an upcoming 10-year plan for the NHS.
This forms part of a wider piece of work on preventing in health due to be published next year, according to the DHSC.
The DHSC said that pharmacists – as well as GPs, school nurses and health visitors – are ‘in a unique position to influence and guide our lifestyle choices and spot when we might need help.’
‘Prevention is crucial to improving the health of the whole population and helping secure the health and social care services we all value and rely on,’ the DHSC wrote.
‘The Government wants to encourage more people to make the most of their local pharmacy, and for local pharmacies to play a stronger role in helping people stay well in the community.’
The DHSC also highlighted the need for GPs to work more closely with pharmacists, whether through physical or virtual collaboration such as networks.
Responding to the announcement, National Pharmacy Association (NPA) chief executive Mark Lyonette said that ‘the opportunity for health-promoting interventions and disease prevention in pharmacies is considerable’.
He added: ‘Community pharmacy can be seen as the front door to health, being both a key part of the NHS frontline and a neighbourhood facility offering wellbeing services and support for independent living.
‘We argued that more screening, diagnostic capacity and ongoing monitoring services in pharmacies would help improve outcomes in relation to cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions and cancer – three of the clinical priorities identified by NHS England.’
More support needed
Although the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) welcomed the Government’s commitment to focus on prevention, the organisation argued that ‘appropriate investment’ is needed, given continuous pressures on councils’ budgets and cuts to public health services.
The RPS’s England board chair Sandra Gidley said: ‘The Government’s publication today rightly recognises the key role of healthy living pharmacies (HLP) in offering accessible lifestyle advice or stop smoking services, but as we ask pharmacists to do more, the resources, support and training also need to follow suit.’