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Pharmacy can help prevent avoidable deaths in England and Wales, declares RPS

Pharmacy could play a major role in reducing the number of avoidable deaths in England and Wales, said Royal Pharmaceutical Society President Martin Astbury following the release of new data.

“Now it is time for the NHS to utilise pharmacists to prevent these premature deaths,” he said.

Deaths from potentially avoidable causes made up about 23 per cent of all deaths (135,724 out of 532, 498) in England and Wales in 2012, according to new data released by the Office of National Statistics this week (7 May 2014). The deaths combined those that could have been avoided through timely good quality healthcare, public health interventions or both.

“Pharmacists are the best placed healthcare professionals to impact positively on reducing avoidable deaths. Pharmacy’s locality and the pharmacist’s training capabilities and accessibility make them the solution,” Mr Astbury said.

Now it is time for the NHS to utilise pharmacists to prevent these premature deaths

The data show that men are more likely to die from potentially avoidable causes than women, with around 28 per cent dying from avoidable conditions compared with 17 per cent of women.

Ischaemic heart disease was the leading cause of avoidable deaths for men and women combined, making up 17 per cent of all avoidable deaths in 2012.

When analysed separately, the leading cause of avoidable deaths differed between the sexes: for men, ischaemic heart disease made up around 22 per cent of all avoidable deaths, while cancers of the trachea, bronchus and lung made up 15 per cent of all female deaths.

Overall, the number of avoidable deaths has fallen by two percentage points over the past 10 years; in 2003, avoidable deaths made up around 25 per cent of all deaths in England and Wales.

Deaths that could have been avoided by public health interventions were higher (140.9 per 100,000 population) than those that could have been avoided by better healthcare (82.1 per 100,000).  

 “Seed change” needed

However pharmacists will not be able to impact on these deaths “without seed change”, said Mr Astbury.

He explained that: “Paid NHS initiatives have to be offered from all pharmacies and for all of the time the pharmacy is open. These need to be set up in a way that needs personal input from the pharmacist delivering a consistent high level service. For example, national common ailments schemes, direct referral systems, and adherence plus tools like the new medicine service on all new medicines.”

When visiting the pharmacy as a portal to the NHS, patients should expect that most of the time the pharmacist will be able to deal with what is required there and then, he believes.

“This seed change will not take place unless the NHS pays nationally for services which are reserved for delivery by pharmacists.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11138209

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