Community pharmacists were urged to empower themselves and shape the future of integrated healthcare at a seminar held by The Royal Pharmaceutical Society earlier this month.

Around 80 pharmacists were treated to a conference where service directors, NHS clinical leads and local pharmacy bodies talked about opportunities arising from ‘Devo Manc’.

Under the Manchester devolution deal decisions on healthcare spending are moved from national to local control, impacting all NHS services including pharmacy.

The revolutionary plan to hand £6bn of the healthcare budget to Greater Manchester offers a unique opportunity for pharmacists to “get in on the ground floor”, said Sandra Gidley, chair of RPS English Pharmacy Board.

“The integration of healthcare services through Devolution Manchester is potentially ground-breaking,” she said.

If devolution is successful, it could become the blueprint for healthcare services across the country.

Wigan Council’s director of public health, Professor Kate Ardern, said the partnership between the council, the NHS and community pharmacies is already playing a huge role in improving the health and wellbeing of people in Greater Manchester.

Wigan borough alone now has 70 Healthy Living Pharmacies helping residents lead healthier lives and tackle long term health conditions by offering support to stop smoking, sexual health advice and support for self-care.

Ardern said: “We need to put improved health at the core of the services we provide and help empower local people be proactive in keeping themselves well.

“In Wigan Borough we believe that community pharmacies are a key resource for many borough residents, from those who lead an active, working life to individuals suffering from long term conditions, local pharmacies can be a more appropriate and readily accessible place to receive healthcare than a hospital or GP surgery.”

Peter Marks, chair of Community Pharmacy Greater Manchester, told attendees they aim to ensure that nearly 700 ‘underused’ community pharmacies become an integral part of the delivery of healthcare following devolution.

Dr Jane Brown, chair of Greater Manchester Pharmacy Local Professional Network, said: “Devolution is an exciting opportunity for pharmacy across Greater Manchester.

“The Pharmacy Local Professional Network will be used as a vehicle to enable pharmacy teams across all sectors to work together and with other stakeholders to improve patient outcomes from medicines.”