Trade for prosperity

Public support for local pharmacies rockets in wake of pandemic

Community pharmacy plays a vital role on the front line of healthcare in cities, towns and villages across the UK, with public support stronger than ever, as the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) explains

Pharmacy teams across the UK have been working hard over the last few months on the NHS frontline to keep regular services going, while meeting vastly increased demand because of coronavirus.

They continue to treat minor illnesses, help people manage long-term medical conditions, supply medicines and provide urgent care. Well over half the population has visited a pharmacy since the lockdown began and hundreds of millions of prescriptions have been dispensed.

While so many other health services limited appointments or operated by phone, community pharmacy was the visible face of the NHS for the majority of the population that did not have coronavirus. They absorbed pressure that would otherwise have fallen onto other parts of the system, including GPs and A&E.

Now there is evidence that the public strongly supports a greater role for pharmacies within the NHS post-COVID19. Polling carried out by the National Pharmacy Association reveals:

✚ 74% want to see local pharmacies provide a wide range of NHS services, and see them as ‘neighbourhood health and wellbeing centres’

✚ 81% of the public hold a ‘favourable view’ of pharmacies, which is up considerably since the NPA last carried out a comparable survey.

✚ 89% of people believe pharmacies are playing an essential role in the COVID19 crisis

Pharmacists have been very touched by the good wishes they’ve received from regular patients and customers, and we want to ask for your continued support.

Above all, please do not enter a pharmacy if you think you have coronavirus or exhibit symptoms. Remember – the more pharmacy team members become poorly or have to self-isolate, the harder it will be to maintain the essential supply of medicines and other care that people need. Thank you for helping pharmacies to continue to do their vital work on the health service frontline.

Pandemic or not, here are some of the things that make your local pharmacies special:

✚ Pharmacies provide a range of NHS services, and take pressure off GPs and hospitals.

✚ Pharmacies are a convenient setting to get help for coughs and sneezes and all manner of other health concerns which don’t necessarily require a GP or hospital appointment.

✚ Your local pharmacy is one of the few places in the health service where you can simply walk in off the street and get treatment and healthcare professional advice without an appointment.

✚ The concentration of community pharmacies is higher in deprived areas, meaning that pharmacy-based services can reduce health inequalities between affluent and less well-off areas.

✚ Conversations with your local pharmacist can help you get the best use from your medicines and minimise your risk of harm. Many people underestimate the risks of taking medicines inappropriately. At least 6% of emergency re-admissions to hospital are caused by avoidable adverse reactions to medicines.

✚ A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) showed that just 12 community pharmacy services (not including the core dispensing service) contribute £3 billion of value a year to the NHS and directly to patients.

✚ Pharmacies perform a vital function in society which is as much about community as it is about healthcare. They should never be taken for granted – use them or lose them!

SECRETARY OF STATE THANKS COMMUNITY PHARMACY TEAMS FOR THEIR COVID-19 EFFORTS

The Rt Hon Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, visited a community pharmacy in June to thank the team and wider sector for all the work they have been doing through the COVID-19 pandemic.

On his visit to the community pharmacy, the Secretary of State extended his thanks to all those working in community pharmacies for their ongoing efforts to support local communities through the pandemic.

Mr Hancock said that pharmacies will play a critical role in the “biggest flu vaccination programme in history” this year. “We’re going to need to use all the resources at our disposal,” he said. Pharmacists carried out 1.5 million flu vaccinations in the autumn and winter of 2018-19.

Andrew Lane, Chair of the National Pharmacy Association, also attended the visit and told the Secretary of State about the wider impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on community pharmacy.

Like all healthcare professional settings, pharmacies have been under considerable pressure and have innovated to cope. Many pharmacies have been offering more services and consultations over the phone or internet, working with local GPs to provide wider clinical care such as for patients with minor illnesses, and strengthening links and integration with other primary healthcare professionals such as dentists.

Mr Hancock said: “Pharmacists have been at the forefront of supporting people through this pandemic, and I want to express my gratitude to each and every one of them for supporting this country and their local community.

“Traditional face-to-face services really matter and, combined with embracing technology and innovation, they have been central to how pharmacies have continued to serve their communities. In doing so, they have kept people safe and well.”

Mr Lane said: “We discussed current challenges and the future, recognising that patients value their local pharmacies immensely. New NPA research shows 89% of people say pharmacies are playing an essential role in the COVID-19 crisis and 71% see us as a key part of the NHS. Our members are ambitious about their role in improving the health of the nation.

“This includes supporting efforts to test and trace for coronavirus and in due course to vaccinate people against the virus. The Health Secretary’s visit was also an opportunity to highlight how pharmacies are continuing to innovate and find new ways of working, and to underline the support we need from government.”

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