The New Medicine Service (NMS) should be extended to include mental health medicines, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has said.

The RPS’s England board chair Sandra Gidley argued that the NMS – an advanced service that forms part of the community pharmacy contract – should cover mental health drugs so that more patients can benefit from pharmacists’ support.

Her comments come after a report by NHS Improvement board member Lord Carter of Coles, which was published on 24 May and looked at how pharmacy services are underused in the community and mental health sectors.

At the moment, the NMS only covers long-term conditions including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.


Better integration needed


Ms Gidley also argued that training around mental health should be ‘part and parcel of undergraduate and post graduate education for pharmacists, as part of the drive to improve care and achieve parity of esteem between physical and mental health’.

She added: ‘Pharmacists working across all sectors must be better integrated into care pathways to support patients with mental health conditions.

‘More resources are also required for the existing pharmacist workforce to undertake advanced clinical skills and qualify as independent prescribers.’

NHS England spends around £17bn on mental health and community health services, which adds to the £52bn spent on acute services and helps more than two million patients every day, according to the report.


Reducing costs


The report said: ‘Evidence demonstrates that involving pharmacy staff in community settings improves access to, and the safety and outcomes of, medicines use at reduced overall costs.

‘Better use of pharmacy staff to support patients and other clinical staff with medicines can offer tremendous value to the NHS and address much unmet need.’

Ms Gidley continued: ‘Every mental health team should have access to a specialist mental health pharmacist whether the team is based in the community, in a mental health hospital or in an acute hospital.

‘Greater use of pharmacist prescribers, as the review suggests, combined with access to the patient record would also improve efficiency and significantly increase patient access to medicines support.’