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The Pharmaceutical Journal
Vol 269 No 7225 p741
23 November 2002

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Letters to the Editor

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Public health

Is there a future for community pharmacy in public health?

From Mr H. R. Patel, FRPharmS

Your report of the 10th UK Public Health Association Forum by Dr Jill Jesson (PJ, 16 November, p725) exposes a lack of appreciation by pharmacists and their representatives on national pharmacy bodies of the urgent need to develop a wider understanding of public health and public health pharmacy.

Dr Jesson laments the fact that there was no community pharmacy input to the conference. At the same time she urges community pharmacy to have a presence at such meetings if it wants to be seen as a major player in public health.

Relying on the traditional role of dispensing and acting as traders will not make our contribution to health care relevant to others. Dr Jesson is right to urge pharmacy to think more widely if it wants a future that is appreciative of community pharmacists' role in improving health.

What "Our healthier nation" made clear was that there is a need for well-trained public health professionals from all disciplines to promote work on reducing health inequalities and to provide the necessary skills to understand the health needs of different communities. It was also recognised that a cadre of public health practitioners was needed, as was the promotion of public health approaches in all health professions, senior management, local authorities and communities.

Pharmacy has an undoubted contribution to make as acknowledged by the activities of the National Pharmaceutical Association, which has got itself involved in many schemes around the country. It is the NPA's belief that community pharmacists are a major resource for public health but their potential has to be activated.

Whom should community pharmacists look to for support in order to take their rightful place in delivering growing public health service? Serving, protecting and promoting community pharmacy's role in public health has to be some organisation's responsibility if there is to be a future in the local health economies. When will pharmacy learn that three levels of practice — specialists, practitioners and those with a role in health improvement — are needed to play an integrated role in primary care? Dr Jesson's point is that to be irreplaceable and effective, we have to be seen by local planners as an integral and valuable part of the public health network. Thus, damaging pharmacy would damage the planners' own interests and enhancing pharmacy would enhance their own interests.

Hemant Patel
Brentwood, Essex

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