Celesio UK: Community pharmacy is ready to help tackle NHS ‘crisis’

With the NHS facing intense pressure at its traditionally busiest time of year, the managing director of Celesio UK is imploring the government to act on its stated intention to introduce a national minor ailments scheme and reduce the burden on an over-stretched health service.

Managing Director of Celesio UK (which includes LloydsPharmacy and AAH), Cormac Tobin says:  “The NHS is in the headlines again this week and the Royal College of Physicians has gone on the record as saying that vital NHS services are “struggling or failing to cope”.  It’s clear that, with the first real cold snap of winter about to strike, our health service is at breaking point with A & E departments swamped and patients waiting hours to be treated.

“We know that the answer isn’t straightforward, otherwise the problem would already have been fixed.  However, we know that GP surgeries are inundated and consequently those people who can’t get an appointment are going to A & E.  It seems just a matter of common sense that if pharmacists help deal with minor ailments they can free up slots for doctors to deal with the more serious cases, thereby releasing capacity in hospitals.  Unless all parts of the NHS work together and play to their strengths, the system doesn’t work effectively.

“In yesterday’s (11th January) parliamentary debate, David Mowat acknowledged that there is a big benefit in diverting some patients away from GPs and towards pharmacists, but we are yet to see him put his money where his mouth is and we only have vague promises and pilots about a national minor ailments service for England.”

Cold weather is associated with more deaths (around 25,000 extra each winter), but also with people becoming unwell; there are a number of conditions worsened by the cold weather.  For instance, 80 per cent of the additional winter deaths are accounted for by people with circulatory diseases (such as heart disease, lung illnesses and stroke), dementia and respiratory diseases (such as asthma).

“In many cases, these conditions can be helped managed through community pharmacy.  Whether by monitoring blood pressure levels, checking people are using their inhalers correctly or just acting as a first port of call for general questions about their medication, pharmacy teams are open for business with health care professionals accessible and available without an appointment.

“Many A&E attendances are due to issues which could have been avoided had people sought advice at the first sign of illness.  My advice to patients is: heed the advice of the Stay Well this Winter campaign; seek immediate advice and help from a pharmacist as soon as you feel unwell, before your condition gets more serious.

“My advice to the minister is: commission a national minor ailments service from Community Pharmacy now, before it’s too late to make a difference.

“Mr Mowat, we’re hiding in plain sight to help solve the hospital crisis.”