A new community pharmacy quality standard published by NICE says that the teams have the potential to play a greater role in health promotion and prevention.
The quality standard calls for community pharmacy services to be included in existing care and referral pathways. This will allow community pharmacy teams to accept as well as make referrals to the service most appropriate for the person.
People are encouraged to discuss their health and wellbeing with community pharmacy teams. They can ask for information and advice about smoking, alcohol or maintaining a healthy weight.
Professor Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Health and Social Care at NICE, said: “Community pharmacists engage every day with people who buy over-the-counter medicines, collect prescriptions or ask for advice. This is a vital opportunity to support people to maintain good health but also signpost them to other health services.
“Integrating community pharmacies into local care and referral pathways, will offer people effective, convenient and easily accessible services, reduce duplication of work and relieve pressure on the wider health and social care system.”
Many community pharmacists have good relationships with the local population and an understanding of the physical, economic and social challenges some individuals face. This knowledge could be used to support the most vulnerable members of the community and help to reduce health inequalities, for example providing information tailored to a specific audience, such as in a different language.
In 2017/18, there were 10,660 hospital admissions directly attributable to obesity, 489,300 hospital admissions directly attributable to smoking and 337,870 hospital admissions primarily due to alcohol consumption.
This advice supports targets set out in NHS England’s Long Term Plan to make greater use of community pharmacists’ skills and opportunities to engage patients.
Primary Care Minister, Jo Churchill said: “Highly-skilled community pharmacists are an integral and trusted part of the NHS and we want every patient with a minor illness, or those seeking wellbeing guidance, to think ‘Pharmacy First’.
“As the health service treats more patients than ever before, it is paramount that, where appropriate, patients can be assessed close to home, saving unnecessary trips to A&E or their GP and helping them get the care they need quicker.
“Community Pharmacies are also uniquely placed within their community to be locally commissioned to provide services to help people look after their own health and to tackle health inequalities.”
Keith Ridge, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, said: “The NHS is making care more easily and conveniently available on the high street, with pharmacists offering more expert services than ever before as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.
“Pharmacists are already playing a bigger clinical role in the NHS through providing advice and treatment to people with minor illnesses, as well as increasingly being able to advise on killer conditions like heart problems, and helping to tackle antibiotic resistance.”