NHS England champions the role of the pharmacy in new campaign

NHS England is targeting “unnecessary” hospital admissions with a new campaign that urges the public to seek treatment early and highlights the role of the pharmacist in minor care.

An eight week public-awareness campaign entitled ‘The Earlier, The Better’ has been launched by the NHS in a bid to decrease the pressure on A&E and ensure patients understand their health care options, including the role of the community pharmacy.

The campaign – mounted across radio, online and print media – follows the NHS England’s urgent and emergency care review, published in November, that concluded the rise in “unnecessary” admissions could be decelerated by boosting public awareness on alternatives and highlighting the benefits of seeking early treatment.

As part of the public-awareness scheme the NHS will urge members of the public – especially the elderly – to seek treatment as soon as symptoms present to avoid health issues becoming more complex and requiring hospital admission.

Professor Keith Willet, director for acute care at NHS England, said he was “really pleased to see a serious attempt to reach out to the public on this issue.”

“’The message ‘the earlier, the better’ is crucial for our patients.  The NHS has not spent enough time broadcasting that message in the past,” he said.  

The campaign will educate patients on the potential alternatives to A&E or GPs surgeries when seeking advice, including the NHS 111 phone line and the NHS Choices website. A major element of the awareness campaign will be to highlight the role community pharmacies can play in providing medicine, advice and treatment for certain ailments.

Clare Howard, deputy chief pharmaceutical officer at NHS England, stressed the importance of the pharmacist in healthcare and suggested “more people could seek help from their Pharmacist when they first have a problem rather than waiting until it becomes more serious, or having to go to hospital when the problem could have been managed earlier.”

Members of the pharmaceutical industry have welcomed the support for the services offered by pharmacists, with David Branford, chair of the English Pharmacy Board, saying he was “delighted that NHS England has recognised the potential for pharmacy to be part of the solution to the challenges faced by urgent care in the NHS.”

“I see this campaign as the first step in a programme to maximise the use of pharmacists in primary and secondary care to help prioritise patient care,” he added.