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Public health: tools for pharmacy to embrace

New professional standards for public health pharmacy practice will provide assurance to commissioners and communities alike

The publication of “Professional standards for public health practice for pharmacy” by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society last month is, I believe, one of the most important developments for pharmacy public health practice to date.

Development of the standards formed part of the Pharmacy and Public Health Forum work programme, and I feel honoured to have been part of the team that delivered this necessary resource.

The profession now needs to show leadership at all levels in encouraging pharmacy teams to adopt the standards and to adapt their daily public health practice. Their enthusiasm is required in each of the three key domains of public health: health protection, health improvement and health service delivery and quality. This engagement is needed at scale and pace to improve people’s health.

The standards are for pharmacy teams working in all settings — community pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, local authority, clinical commissioning group, NHS England, academia and pharmaceutical industry — and at all levels of practice.

Having these new national standards, and being able to demonstrate that pharmacy teams are meeting them, should provide real assurances to commissioners and the public that public health services provided by pharmacy teams will be of a consistently high standard across the country.

Not all pharmacy teams will use all the standards to begin with. They can, however, make a start by focusing on those that are most relevant to their daily practice and build upon them over time. An added bonus for registered pharmacy professionals is that progress in implementing the standards could contribute to their continuing professional development requirements.

My vision is that over the next few years pharmacy teams will be at the forefront of prevention, early detection and treatment of ill health in our communities. They are already delivering NHS Health Checks, helping to prevent, diagnose and manage high blood pressure, providing sexual health services and advising people about losing weight, giving up smoking and other lifestyle changes. In hospitals, pharmacists are leading on the optimal use of antibiotics; this includes their contribution to and promotion of stewardship programmes to help mitigate the risk of antimicrobial resistance. The RPS standards provide further opportunities for pharmacy teams in hospitals to do more in the area of public health, for example, by offering healthy living advice to patients newly diagnosed with diabetes or heart disease.

I believe these standards are a groundbreaking first for pharmacy, since they have input from both pharmacy and public health professionals and organisations. Aligning the standards with the ambitions of other public health professionals was hugely important for me and critical to integrating and embedding pharmacists and their teams within the rest of the public health workforce.

This provides a unique opportunity for us to deliver excellence in public health practice for pharmacy and make a difference to population health and wellbeing.

Gul Root is pharmaceutical public health adviser to Public Health England’s health and wellbeing directorate.

Citation: Clinical Pharmacist DOI: 10.1211/CP.2014.11136618

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