A frontline role for community pharmacists

ConservativeHome is running an excellent exrercise to find 100 policies which it will then put to the Shadow Cabinet. Below is my contribution which can be found at ConservativeHome:-

 > Policy summary

The Health Service, and in particular primary care is coming under increased pressure to deliver. An untapped resource – in the shape of the local pharmacist – can and should be used to relieve pressure on an under-delivering NHS.

> Policy explanation

NHS resources are stretched to breaking point. The Government claims that funding is at record levels yet actual health outcomes are failing to show improvements. Money continues to be wasted on bureaucracy and isn't targeted to the areas where it will achieve the best results for healthcare.

People still use NHS services inappropriately. For example, hospital A&E departments are full of people who could be dealt with by their GP in a primary care setting. At the same time, GPs are unable to spend quality time with people who need more specialist care because their surgeries are filled with people who have minor ailments that can be dealt with elsewhere.

People need to take responsibility for their own health to prevent or delay long term illnesses in the future. The under utilised resource is community pharmacy.

Pharmacists are highly skilled professionals – they go through five years of training – they are experts in medicines and have far more knowledge on the subject than any other health professional including GPs. Pharmacists are accessible where people live, shop and work 24/7 and should be the first port of call and entry point to the NHS.  It is estimated that six million people visit pharmacies daily.

With the new pharmacy contract, pharmacists are helping people manage their illnesses and providing support and advice to those with chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma and heart disease. They are already prescribing repeat medicines for patients instead of them visiting the GP every time. Additionally two thirds of patients do not understand their medicines, half of patients stop preventative medication within 1 year, 60% patients forget to take medication regularly and 82% of patients want to know more.

Using pharmacists, patients can be enabled to understand their medicines better – it will save lives, improve health outcomes, empower patients to look after their health better and prevent ill health.

Demands on the NHS are only going to increase over time, It is imperative to use the skills and resources in the NHS as effectively as possible and that means there is the need to get the right professional for the right job.  Pharmacists are an untapped resource in the NHS.

One of their key roles would be to ensure that medicines are being used properly, reducing wastage, increase effectiveness and thereby improve health outcomes.  This would deliver a Win for Govt a Win for NHS and most importantly a Win for patients.

> Questions for ConservativeHome readers

  • Is there a specific financial cost given to a patient visiting their GP?
  • How many GP visits are there per year?
  • How many could be equated as unnecessary and dealt with by a pharmacist?

> Costs

There should be no overall cost as any additional spend, could be redistributed resources and money from secondary care to primary care as improvements to health flow through. 

If you agree with the policy in principle send an empty email to vote@conservativehome.com with "Yes community pharmacy" in the subject line.

 Any comments – feel free to leave them below.

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