Funding needed for community pharmacists to tackle patients’ smoking and drinking, say pharmacy bodies

Several pharmacy organisations have welcomed the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s findings on community pharmacies being “well placed” to offer advice on health and wellbeing, but maintain that they cannot provide services without adequate funding.

No smoking

Community pharmacists need adequate funding and resources if they’re to discuss patients’ drinking, smoking and wellbeing, pharmacy organisations have said in response to a National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) consultation.

NICE’s draft quality standard ‘Community pharmacies: promoting health and wellbeing’ says community pharmacies are “well placed” to offer health and wellbeing advice to “everyone in the local community”, which could include pharmacy teams offering support on stopping smoking, cutting down on drinking and managing their weight.

The draft says that when community pharmacy teams dispense medicine, sell over-the-counter products or are asked for advice, “they can use the opportunity to start a more general conversation about health and wellbeing”.

Responding to a consultation on the draft standard, which began on 17 January 2020 and closed on 14 February 2020, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said that while community pharmacy teams have the “skills and desire” to be able to provide more health and wellbeing advice to people, they may not have the “time or financial capacity to undertake this work at all times”.

“Community pharmacy teams already offer health and wellbeing advice to people who have a long-term condition or need support to adopt a healthier lifestyle,” the PSNC’s response said.

“However, community pharmacies are currently under considerable capacity and financial strain, with cuts to NHS funding having been imposed in recent years and workload increasing, as a result of increased patient and NHS demands.”

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) also welcomed the standard but said that “for effective outcomes” from NICE’s quality standard, adequate resources and funding were needed.

“Over the [past few years], much of the public health budgets have been reduced and/or cut, leading to a leaner spend on local resources,” the NPA response said.

“In some parts [of the country], this has led to the de-commissioning of pharmacy services that support the prevention of ill-health.

“This quality standard helpfully acknowledges the huge potential that pharmacies have to help people stay well, as well as treat people when they are poorly … however, for effective outcomes, adequate resources and funding must be allocated.”

In its response, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) welcomed the standard and its recognition of the need for local commissioners to fully integrate community pharmacy services into existing care and referral pathways.

In a press release issued with its response, Claire Anderson, chair of the RPS English Pharmacy Board, said: “With community pharmacists and pharmacy teams already working at full capacity, this needs to be introduced alongside an enhancement in support services for pharmacists, to help them with their own health and wellbeing”.

In its response, the RPS also referenced the “national criticism” of pharmacists following a discussion of the NICE consultation on ITV’s This Morning
. The programme drew thousands of complaints to the communications regulator Ofcom following disparaging comments from a guest on the show.

Anderson noted that the perception of pharmacists needs to be addressed.

The NICE quality standard will be discussed at a post-consultation meeting on 10 March 2020 and is expected to be published on 2 June 2020.

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The Pharmaceutical Journal, Funding needed for community pharmacists to tackle patients' smoking and drinking, say pharmacy bodies;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20207713

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