Prescription filled for improved health

Local pharmacies see as many as 600,000 people coming through their doors every day. Picture: Robert Perry
Local pharmacies see as many as 600,000 people coming through their doors every day. Picture: Robert Perry
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SCOTLAND is helping lead the world in using its army of community pharmacists to help improve the nation’s health – but at Community Pharmacy Scotland we believe even more can and should be done.

Tapping into the clinical expertise of our highly-qualified pharmacists is key – as is making best use of the extensive network of almost 1,250 pharmacies located throughout Scotland in our communities.

The contract in Scotland between community pharmacies and the NHS seeks to make best use of the big accessibility advantages offered by local pharmacies, with 600,000 people coming through our doors every day.

As a result, our modus operandi in Scotland is being studied by others around the world.

An example of our way of working has been the increasingly important role community pharmacy is playing in tackling the public health challenges facing Scottish society today.

A report by the Auditor General into Health Inequalities in December of last year highlighted that “the distribution of community pharmacies across Scotland varies by deprivation levels, with the highest number of pharmacies in the most deprived areas. This would indicate that the pharmacy network is well-placed to deliver services where they may be most effective.” That translates into real action.

Smoking cessation

Smoking cessation services have been delivered in community pharmacies since their introduction to the national contract in 2008. Pharmacies are now delivering 75.2 per cent of primary care quit attempts and in doing so are playing a key role in helping the Scottish Government meet its targets for number of quits. Feedback from patients is generally very positive around this service with “the accessibility and flexibility of the service, the personalised service provided by pharmacy staff and the provision of nicotine replacement therapy products on prescription being particularly important in shaping user satisfaction”.

Another example where community pharmacy has had a positive impact on public health is in the area of sexual health where Scotland has a higher rate of teenage pregnancy than most countries in the western world. In 2008 the Emergency Hormonal Contraceptive (EHC) was made available through appropriate consultation from community pharmacies. The service involves a confidential pharmacist consultation which delivers holistic sexual health advice resulting in EHC supply if deemed appropriate. Since the introduction of the national service the number of unwanted pregnancies has dropped year on year.

Due to the holistic nature of the advice of the EHC consultation around administration, suitability, further contraceptive needs and supply, community pharmacy could be viewed as a potential access point for further sexual health services in the community. The introduction of some sort of long-term contraceptive service, in conjunction with local sexual health services and after the introduction of appropriate protocols for pharmacies, would offer choice and access to patients and possibly reduce the teenage pregnancy rate further.

Discussion

As the organisation representing the owners of Scotland’s community pharmacies, we are constantly in discussion with the Scottish Government and local NHS boards to see how we can best be used. We believe there are many other areas in which we are well placed to play a role in a modern NHS which maximises the skills and opportunities presented by all of its healthcare professionals.

Alcohol misuse, obesity and increasing physical activity through lifestyle advice are all areas where community pharmacies can have a positive impact. Indeed in some areas health boards are realising the value of the access provided by pharmacies and are trialling services to tackle these public health issues.

Community pharmacies could and should be given the opportunity to work as part of the wider healthcare team and demonstrate that the pharmacy network has a positive role to play in helping the patients of Scotland. Scottish Government take note.

• Harry McQuillan is chief executive of Community Pharmacy Scotland. www.communitypharmacyscotland.org.uk

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