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National awareness campaign will promote community pharmacy services

Community pharmacy is the focus of NHS England’s first national public awareness campaign, which launches today (20 January 2014).

The eight-week £3m campaign, called “The earlier, the better”, is designed to reduce pressure on the NHS urgent and emergency care system by encouraging people to seek advice early if they are feeling unwell. It aims to improve understanding of, and confidence in, community pharmacy services and will direct people with minor ailments to community pharmacies as well as to self-care information and advice on the NHS Choices website.

The campaign follows NHS England’s urgent and emergency care review, published last year, which highlighted the role of pharmacists as a key part of urgent care transformation. It will target people aged over 60 years, as well as the carers of older people, via advertisements on bill boards, on the radio and in national newspapers. Pharmacies will receive packs, including window posters and countertop displays, to help them support the campaign.

Chairman of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board David Branford said: “I am delighted that NHS England has recognised the potential for pharmacy to be part of the solution to the challenges faced by urgent care in the NHS.” He added that the campaign should be seen as a measure of success of the efforts of the profession to get involved locally and nationally in the big conversations about NHS reform.

“We know the ‘Now or never’ report has formed the basis of discussions about pharmacy and the NHS at think tanks and within the heart of Government and NHS bodies. I see this campaign as the first step in a programme to maximise the use of pharmacists in primary and secondary care to help prioritise patient care.”

Commenting on this campaign and a similar one launched by Pharmacy Voice  last week (15 January 2014), PSNC chief executive Sue Sharpe said: “Community pharmacy has been calling for a national publicity campaign to tell patients more about what it has to offer for some time — this was mentioned in the 2008 White Paper, for example — and we believe that to the extent to which both of these campaigns should help the public to better understand the value and help that pharmacies can offer, they are good things.”

However, she added that she hopes to see the campaigns backed by the commissioning of services and argued that, if combined with a national community pharmacy minor ailment service, campaigns like these could be even more powerful.

“For pharmacy contractors these campaigns serve as reminder of the need to ensure that patients are fully aware of all the services that you offer — the campaigns will be driving people towards the NHS Choices website, for example, so this could be a good opportunity to ensure that the information on your NHS Choices profile is all up to date,” she said.

Chief executive of Pharmacy Voice Rob Darracott said that the NHS England campaign will build on Pharmacy Voice’s campaign to influence change in public perceptions and behaviours. “Both campaigns will help reduce the spiralling and unsustainable demand on general practice and our accident and emergency departments by actively promoting community pharmacy as an effective and appropriate alternative to these services. If NHS services are to remain accessible and available to all, everyone must take greater responsibility for looking after their own health and wellbeing, and avoid unnecessary and preventable use of emergency services.”

• This article was amended on 20 January 2014 to include a comment from Rob Darracott.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11133073

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  • Campaign poster

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