So the votes have been counted and we’re at the start of a new period of government.
The Conservatives have reportedly already set out five things that pharmacy can do to support the NHS, including doing more to manage repeat medication, helping older people take their medicine as intended, and being the first port of call for minor ailments and lifestyle advice.
I feel that this is encouraging, as these are all areas which we in the Community Pharmacy sector have been championing for some time. I am calling on the new government to realise these opportunities early.
With the UK’s increasing population and strained finances, many believe that this term of government will be make or break for the NHS. And these challenges are not standing still: we need to work together to address them with some urgency.
Some fundamental change is already in motion, through pioneering initiatives such as NHS England’s vanguard network where healthcare providers work together to provide more effective, patient-centred care – to our own LloydsPharmacy A&E-based, pharmacist-run First Care Clinic.
There’s a growing catalogue of empirical evidence which reinforces the role of pharmacy within the UK’s healthcare system. I recently read the results of a study by Community Pharmacy Future (CPF) – a project which brings together the UK’s four largest pharmacy companies: Boots, Rowlands Pharmacy, Well and our very own LloydsPharmacy. The CPF team evaluated the impact of a new community pharmacy service, which monitored older patients taking four or more medicines and gave them expert medicines advice and support for their lifestyle and overall health.
After six months of providing this service to a group of patients, the results showed significant effects in three areas: a reduction in the number of falls, an increase in medicines adherence and also an increase in patient quality of life.
In making the case for Community Pharmacy, these findings are so significant. It’s thought that almost 17.5 million people in the UK have a long-term condition – and most of these will be taking medication. Around half of medicines prescribed are not taken as intended and a third of medicines-related hospital admissions are due to inappropriate prescribing.
These figures highlight the huge number of people who could be living healthier, longer lives with some straightforward care from their local pharmacist.
By harnessing the expertise of a group of industry experts and its excellent links with the NHS, CPF is growing the body of evidence as the NHS looks to deliver joined up care in a challenging environment. I’m delighted that CPF has recently embarked on a new phase of research, building on the excellent work that has been done already.
Let’s start using this evidence and get on with making Community Pharmacy central to the NHS for the next five years – and beyond.