Community pharmacists across Europe are already helping to cut health inequalities, boost quality of care, reduce the number of hospital admissions and cut avoidable emergency department visits, according to the organisation that represents the profession in the European Union (EU).
But their potential to create more sustainable and inclusive healthcare systems will only be realised if national governments take individual action to develop their role further, according to an opinion paper from the Pharmaceutical Group of the EU (PGEU).
The paper, published in November 2017, says: “PGEU believes that expanding the role of community pharmacy and strengthening primary care systems are key policy levers to lead the way towards a more sustainable, inclusive and healthier future in Europe.”
The paper reveals the key roles that community pharmacies are already playing in European healthcare systems.
Pharmacies across 24 European countries provide night-time services, they dispose of medicines waste in 23, and offer emergency contraception in 21, while 20 countries have pharmacy-led blood pressure measurement services.
Smoking cessation is provided by community pharmacies in 19 countries, weight measurement in 19, glucose measurement in 18, cholesterol measurement in 17 and diabetes management in 15 countries.
Asthma management is run by community pharmacies in 14 European countries, home care is delivered by pharmacy in 13 countries and 11 countries provide pharmacy-led pregnancy testing.
Community pharmacies in 13 countries provide medicine use reviews and hypertension management, while nine offer pharmacy-led vaccination programmes and 11 have new medicine services run by community pharmacies.
The PGEU paper says: “The network of 160,000 community pharmacies in Europe provides a unique opportunity to improve access to disease prevention programmes, immunisation, health screening, etc through provision of an increasing number of health services for all citizens.”
The opinion paper recommends five steps that individual countries can take to help realise the potential of community pharmacy.
They include: expanding community pharmacy services at national level to become integrated into primary care services; recognising community pharmacists as primary healthcare providers; ensuring patients should have greater access to biosimilar and biological medicines which can be supplied by community pharmacies; incentivising pharmacists to increase the uptake of generic medicines; and involving pharmacy in national work to address antimicrobial resistance, improve vaccination cover and generally reduce the risk associated with medicines.