LGA report highlights benefits of pharmacies to local communities
A newly published briefing from the Local Government Association (LGA) highlights the advances community pharmacy has made in recent years in expanding its public health remit in England, and outlines councils’ duties in relation to local pharmacy services. With over 11,000 community pharmacies in England, and 1.2 million people visiting a pharmacy for health related reasons each day, The community pharmacy offer for improving the public’s health looks at the unique position pharmacy has within the community.
The authors write in their foreword that pharmacy is a “key strategic partner in local public health programmes and in prevention and early detection of disease”, citing its “important role in medicines optimisation, ensuring that people get the best out of their medicines and providing health promoting advice for people living with long-term conditions.”
The report uses case studies to highlight the benefits pharmacy offers as a day-to-day point of contact for the public, with services like dementia programmes, patient participation groups (PPGs) and advice on diet and nutrition playing an increasing role alongside traditional dispensing services.
The authors note that the long opening hours, accessibility and informal environment of pharmacies are conducive to a ‘special relationship’ whereby customers feel comfortable talking about conditions affecting them. This is borne out by the figures – 75 per cent of adults use the same pharmacy all of the time.
The ‘Making every contact count’ (MECC) approach, developed by NHS England and local councils to improve lifestyles and reduce health inequalities, represents an additional opportunity for pharmacy to provide a complete service to the community. MECC is a holistic, personalised approach to patient interactions; for example, pharmacy staff may discuss healthy eating services with someone who suffers from diabetes. MECC can also involve cooperation between pharmacy and other local services.
The responsibility of local government with regard to pharmacy is also described in the report. The three main functions of councils are listed as: carrying out pharmaceutical needs assessments (PNAs) to identify the specific requirements of their community; commissioning certain public health services (e.g. stop smoking and sexual health services) from pharmacies; and supporting community pharmacies to enlarge their role in public health and health improvement.
The report comes in the wake of a Royal Pharmaceutical Society survey that asked pharmacists to quantify their contribution to patient care. In addition to dispensing and checking medicines, many said that they regularly helped people stop smoking, and almost 90 per cent said they provided advice to other health professionals.