WE ALL LIKE THE CONCEPT OF THE NHS, BUT WE NEED TO LOVE PHARMACY

3 years ago

Louise Veale, Associate Director, Health & Wellbeing

With the momentous news that Greater Manchester will begin taking control of its health budget from April after a devolution agreement was signed by the Chancellor George Osborne last week, the NHS is taking a radical step towards redesigning how patient services are delivered in England. By integrating services around individual patients to deliver “better, more joined-up health care”, the government could unlock millions of pounds of NHS efficiency savings and improve patient care. The greater use of pharmacies to deliver healthcare services and advice should also be considered to reduce the burden on GPs and hospitals.

Patients are putting increasing demands on medical professionals. A survey of medical professionals across Europe showed that in all regions patients are less passive than in the past; they expect:

* higher standards of care
* more information about their treatment
* more involvement in decisions about their care
* access to the latest treatments

Pharmacy and OTC products are well-positioned to deliver against these patient expectations and pharmacies are well used, on average around 14 times a year. However, only 12% of respondents surveyed use pharmacies for health advice with only 1% using a pharmacy for urgent advice. Yet pharmacies are perfectly positioned to triage patients and direct to other services, averting unnecessary GP and A&E visits.

As a judge for the OTC Marketing Awards, now in their 20th year, I am always impressed by the depth and breadth of innovative products and breakthrough campaigns for conditions that range from IBS, children’s pain/fever, fatigue and muscular pain. All should be congratulated for doing great job of putting the pharmacy at the heart of primary care, and changing the perception that the pharmacy is just a staging post for a prescription.

Some 40% of GP consultations are for minor ailments.  The cost to the NHS of a pharmacy consultation is half that of a GP one and more convenient for patients.  Pharmacies are also at the forefront of the early screening of patients and can identify those most at risk of strokes, heart attacks or developing diabetes.

If we are serious about a ‘joined-up’ health service that seeks to prevent illness as well as containing the cost of treatment, then pharmacies need to be our first port of call for minor illnesses – no appointment necessary.