Can community pharmacies reach places that others can't?

Your life expectancy might depend on your postcode – and premises on your high street might be able to help you live longer, say two Fuse public health experts.

In an article in the New Statesman Clare Bambra, Fuse Associate Director and Professor in Public Health Geography, and Dr Adam Todd, senior lecturer in the School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health from Durham University write:

“One of the factors we know influences a person’s health is access to health-care services. For most people in the UK this will mean the NHS.

"One area where there could be local action is around improving access to health-care and public health services for people living in our most deprived areas.

"This is where community pharmacies can help.

"Over the last few years, the role of the community pharmacist has expanded from supplying medication to delivering patient-focused health-care and public health services. Many community pharmacists now offer clinics for smoking and weight management as well as minor ailment schemes – all of which take place in GP-style consultation rooms within the pharmacy. A patient can see a community pharmacist almost immediately without an appointment; they are often open during evenings and weekends, making them truly available to the public.

"Our recent research at Durham University has shown that community pharmacies could play an even bigger part in how public health and health-care services are delivered.

"As more people die from diseases associated with smoking, obesity and alcohol misuse in the poorest areas, community pharmacies also have the potential to reduce local health inequalities – at least in terms of these critical determinants of behaviour.

"In terms of current planning, this is very significant: delivering more services in community pharmacy settings could not only take pressures off other branches of the NHS, such as GP services and A&E departments, but could also improve public health, help tackle inequalities and ultimately lead to better health outcomes. Community pharmacy interventions are usually also cheaper – an increasingly important factor for local commissioners in the face of budget cuts.

"Not everyone knows about the public health and health-care services that community pharmacies can provide. More, therefore, should be done to promote these services to the general public. In the longer term, and as a priority, those involved in public health and health-care policymaking must seek to maximise how community pharmacies work with other NHS services and consider developing more national community pharmacy services.

"It is crucial to exploit the unique potential of community pharmacies in delivering health-care services to patients that need it the most, in the areas that need it most – something that, as a nation, we have failed to achieve so far.”

 The article was part of a New Statesman supplement called ‘Our own medicine: Community pharmacies are underutilised and have never been more needed’ in association with Durham University. To read the full article please visit: http://www.newstatesman.com/sites/default/files/community_pharmacies_supplement_sept_2015.pdf

Photo: Courtesy of Durham University/New Statesman

Last modified: Tue, 31 Jul 2018 09:13:45 BST