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Community pharmacy

Regular health checks to tackle long term conditions and raise profile of community pharmacy, recommends think tank

If all community pharmacies in England screened just one patient a day, it could lead to three million of these cost-effective tests a year, with 750,000 undiagnosed cases of hypertension detected.

Blood pressure check

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A new report commissioned by the National Pharmacy Association suggests that community pharmacies should provide health checks to everyone over the age of 18 to enable conditions, such as hypertension, to be detected earlier

Community pharmacies should provide health checks to everyone over the age of 18 to enable conditions such as hypertension, to be detected earlier, says a new report commissioned by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA).

‘Heartbeats on the high street: how community pharmacy can transform Britain’s health, wealth and wellbeing’ was published on 20 November 2017 by think tank ResPublica.

It identifies six key benefits from community pharmacists carrying out health checks, primarily blood pressure tests, on all adult patients every five years. These include: collecting data on the population’s blood pressure enabling better detection; lowered rates of cardiovascular disease; and greater coordination between local authorities and local pharmaceutical committees.

And, the report says, it would put pharmacy at the centre of public health.

“If all community pharmacies in England screened just one patient a day, it could lead to three million of these cost-effective tests a year, with 750,000 undiagnosed cases of hypertension detected,” the report argues.

The report also said that the lack of pharmacy representation on local commissioning structures such as Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) needs to be addressed.

“Parity for community pharmacy at the strategic level is essential,” the report said.

“We call on local commissioning structures such as CCGs and STPs to incorporate a pharmacy representative as a mandatory part of their strategic decision-making.”

Finally, the report recognised the need for reform within the community pharmacy sector itself. It said that, at present, there is variation in the way that many pharmacies operate, training for pharmacists varies and there is no programme of quality improvement to match the Quality and Outcomes Framework for GPs.

“The time has come to turn the potential of community pharmacy into practice,” it said.

“The NHS simply can no longer afford to overlook the role that community pharmacy might play in reducing the cost burden on taxpayers and the capacity burden on GPs.”

Ian Strachan, NPA chair, said there was a clear consensus among health professionals that better detection and management of long-term health conditions was needed, but the ambition to make it happen was currently missing.

“This report sets out a positive, patient-focused and sustainable future for pharmacy, which can not only improve public health, but also save money and precious resources when they are becoming increasingly scarce,” he said.

“Community pharmacies have transformational potential in primary care and public health and are an ideal setting for universal NHS health checks, but this should only be the start.

“Pharmacies must also be empowered to provide wrap around care before, during and after a health check, actively managing risk and prescribing medicines where appropriate, to reduce pressure on the wider health system.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20203979

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