Community pharmacy spearheads health policy

Encouraging progress has been made in this plan, finds Harry McQuillan

Picture: Jon Savage

With the dust settling on the 2016 Scottish Parliamentry Elections the political parties will be reflecting on successes and disappointments across Scotland. I am delighted that the main political parties have endorsed community pharmacy and the importance of pharmaceutical care. As emphasis shifts to primary care service models community pharmacy is at the forefront of health policy.

The engagement process began for Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) many months ago. Party conferences, face-to-face meetings and stakeholder events were all attended to highlight the positive and growing contribution of community pharmacy.

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A high point for CPS was the launch of our Manifesto back in September. In our document we challenged policy makers to think differently about how the public access NHS services. We asked the political parties to invest in the “Pharmacy First” principle. This was augmented by further public health proposals and greater support for those with long-term conditions. It was pleasing this resonated across the political spectrum.

The Scottish Conservatives, were first to release their manifesto with a commitment to enhancing the Community Pharmacy Minor Ailments service. This involves investment to increase the number of conditions treatable under the scheme and crucially remove the out dated patient eligibility criteria. Many will be surprised to hear that in times when Accident and Emergency and GP services are strained, currently around half the Scottish population can’t access a key NHS service.

Scottish Labour also identified the potential of shifting the balance of care related to minor ailments. Their pledge to make “immediate, local advice more available” plays to one of the great strengths of the community pharmacy network. Labour, like the conservatives, pledged to increase the number conditions treatable on the Minor Ailments Service and also offer it to everyone in Scotland.

The Scottish National Party manifesto provided opportunities for the Community Pharmacy team to increase their presence in the NHS. The SNP’s aim of providing community health services will offer greater support for patients through enhanced collaboration between community pharmacy teams and other healthcare professionals. Providing more support for those with long-term conditions will allow them to take control their health needs .

The CPS team has had great opportunity to speak to all the political parties about community pharmacy and the NHS in general.

It is very encouraging to see the conversations and discussions had with our elected representatives come to measurable commitments to further strengthen Community Pharmacies place in the NHS. One of the great strengths of the Scottish Parliament is the ease of access to our elected representatives.

The next few weeks will see the United Kingdom move into the referendum on EU membership. Finally, after this takes place, we will be in a situation where the parliament moves into a period with no campaigning to focus on. A new Scottish Government and parliamentary committees will be formed and parliamentarians will focus on serving the Scottish people.

We are now entering a period where innovative health models will be required to meet the changing needs of the Scottish people. To make the most of the skills available we must enable all our health care professionals to practise to their full competence. I look forward to working with colleges and policymakers on projects like reforming Out of Hours Care and shifting the balance of care to community based services.

It has been a long few years of elections and referendums with a wide range of views across Scotland. Thankfully, there appears to be at least one thing the political parties all agree on. The NHS of the future needs a strong Community Pharmacy Network.

• Harry McQuillan is chief executive of Community Pharmacy Scotland.