The NHS is under increasing pressures, pharmacists are suffering the funding cuts and hospitals and GPs are struggling to meet capacity.
The independent think tank ResPublica published a report highlighting how community pharmacy can reduce social inequalities and increase economic savings.
Phillip Blond, director of ResPublica, said: ‘Community pharmacies are an untapped asset on our high streets and should be viewed as a key institution for delivering primary care and reducing the burden on GPs.
‘The Government can no longer afford to overlook the value of community pharmacies to local communities and the range of social and economic benefits they can bring.’
The Pharmacist picked three of its favourite recommendations set out in the report.
- A more proactive role
Pharmacies play more than just a clinical role. Located on most high streets, they’re often referred to as the gatekeepers of the NHS.
With levels of long-term conditions – such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes – rising, pharmacies should be more involved in preventing and managing patients with these illnesses.
ResPublica has called for regular NHS health checks to be made available to all adults over the age of 18. At the moment, the checks are only for people aged 40 and over.
Katharine Jenner, CEO of Blood Pressure UK said: ‘Around one in three people in the UK are now living with high blood pressure which remains the single biggest cause of death.
‘What’s more, a shocking 6.5 million people still remain undiagnosed. Blood Pressure UK supports this health check initiative, as we encourage everyone to make a habit of knowing their blood pressure numbers, as this is the first step to reducing their blood pressure and risk of stroke and heart attack.’
A blood pressure test at a pharmacy costs around £20, which is less than half the £45 cost of a visit to a GP.
- Integration of pharmacies by commissioners
Pharmacies often aren’t included in the decision-making processes of local commissioning structures such as Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs).
To achieve greater coordination between pharmacists, local authorities and other healthcare representatives, CCGs and STPs should ‘incorporate a pharmacy representative as part of their strategic decision making’, according to ResPublica.
Dr James Noyes, the author of the report, said: ‘Parity for community pharmacy at the strategic level is essential.
‘Community pharmacy needs a stronger voice on health and wellbeing boards, working with a range of stakeholders for the benefit of their local community wellbeing.’
- Development of a quality improvement programme
The report argues that pharmacies would benefit from ‘establishing a quality improvement programme that would ‘match the Quality and Outcomes Frameworks (QOF) for GPs’.
The programme would support and enhance pharmacies’ engagement with commissioners and develop the delivery of their services.
The report said: ‘It would achieve greater consistency across LPCs in terms of output, boundaries and the relationship with local authorities and other local partnerships.’
The report was commissioned by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA).