WE recently launched our Manifesto on behalf of our members to highlight how community pharmacy can continue to evolve to enable the NHS to survive and prosper deliver. There were three overarching areas, I will focus on the first area: Pharmacy First.
The term ‘Pharmacy First’ is coined for the public to consider making their local community pharmacy the first port of call for access to NHS services.
Under the Pharmacy First heading we offer three proposals:
- Extension and wider promotion of the NHS Minor Ailment Service with current eligibility criteria replaced by a universal service – Pharmacy minor ailments treatment already shifts care in a cost effective manner away from GPs and other healthcare services. Proper promotion could maximise this impact, ensuring the public can access services at the right time and at the right place with interventions from highly trained pharmacy teams. The Minor Ailment Service is a successful community pharmacy service and this success can be built upon.
- Appropriate access to relevant patient information to allow more effective treatment of more patients in the community – Data protection and confidentiality is paramount in the regulated pharmacy environment, but access to information could help pharmacists support patients better. This will save time for GPs and the out-of-hours services, allowing patients to be treated effectively and efficiently in the accessible pharmacy environment.
- Improved referral pathways between settings involved in patient care – This does not just include links with general practice which are very good in general, but with other health and social care providers such as optometry and dentistry. This would allow seamless links to be built for patients between healthcare providers, allowing the expertise of each provider to be used appropriately for the right patient.
When viewing the current healthcare landscape, there is a clear need (as identified by many stakeholders, including the auditor general) that NHS services need to be delivered in new and innovative ways. Much of this is down to the ageing population who are living longer and in their own homes. Add to that the headline stories around stretched GP and A&E services, then every service provider needs to look at what they can do to ensure patient needs are met.
The recently published national Out of Hours review, commissioned by Scottish Government and led by Sir Lewis Ritchie, also highlights a need to think differently about care provision in and out of hours. Community pharmacy is identified as being a key partner in the delivery of care with patients.
Indeed the report specifically mentions the Minor Ailment Service, patient record access, and the development of the community pharmacy network as key components supporting care provision for patients.
Of course all this has to be delivered against the backdrop of tightening health budgets and significant pressures on the NHS.
Audit Scotland recently said in its report on the NHS in Scotland that ‘the Scottish Government has not made sufficient progress towards achieving its’ 20:20 Vision of changing the balance of care to more homely and community-based settings’.
Given that community pharmacies are in the heart of communities we would be looking to provide solutions such as those illustrated above to support the aims of the 20:20 Vision through novel approaches to healthcare delivery.
Community pharmacy, working with the public and our healthcare colleagues can play a key role in the future of the NHS as we continue to champion and support excellent health outcomes for all in the communities we serve.
Professor Harry McQuillan is Chief Executive at Community Pharmacy Scotland and visiting Professor at the University of Strathclyde
Follow Harry @HMcQCPS