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RPS Scotland policy sets out how pharmacists can support people with mental health conditions

A document developed by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland along with the Scottish Specialist Mental Health Strategy group offers six recommendations for how pharmacists’ expertise can be used across multidisciplinary teams.

Mental health support

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One in three adults in Scotland will experience mental health conditions during their lifetime, but pharmacy teams can help in many ways

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in Scotland has published a policy setting out how pharmacists can improve the care of people with mental health conditions.

The policy document, ‘Improving care of people with mental health conditions: how pharmacists can help’, was developed together with the Scottish Specialist Mental Health Strategy group.

The document notes that around one in three adults in Scotland will experience mental health conditions during their lifetime. It adds that people with life-long mental health conditions are likely to die between 15 and 20 years prematurely because of poor physical health, “much of which is preventable with improved patient care and risk management”.

RPS Scotland’s policy sets out six recommendations for how pharmacists’ expertise can be best used across multidisciplinary teams.

Among those recommendations, the policy calls for an increase in the number of specialist mental health pharmacists, noting that, at present, demand for this service exceeds supply and that some NHS boards have only one specialist mental health pharmacist.

It also says that people who are newly prescribed medicine for a mental health condition would benefit from community pharmacy support, as part of a formal integrated model with GPs. This could, it says, work along the same lines as the new medicine service in England.

In addition, community pharmacy can, the policy says, be more involved in monitoring the physical health of patients who are taking medicine for a mental health condition. Furthermore, it recommends that pharmacy teams be trained in mental health first aid and suicide prevention.

A launch event for the policy, hosted by RPS Lothian and held online on 27 October 2020, showcased best practice examples of pharmacists supporting patients with mental health conditions. Included among these was NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s Bipolar Hub, run jointly with Bipolar Scotland.

Within this hub, which operates in South Glasgow, a specialist mental health pharmacist works alongside a nursing team to provide regular clinics monitoring patients’ physical health and lithium levels, as well as providing medicines information and reassurance.

“Whether it is spotting early signs of mental health conditions, managing long-term conditions, providing expert medicines advice or signposting to other forms of support, pharmacists working across the health service are ideally placed to ensure people get the help they need”, said Jonathan Burton, chair of the RPS’s Scottish Pharmacy Board.

“There are many great examples of services being provided by pharmacy teams that improve the care of people with mental health conditions. We would like to see more support and increased resources to enable more pharmacy teams to do the same”.

Andrew Walker, chair of the Mental Health Pharmacy Strategy Group, said the policy “represents a challenge and an opportunity for the pharmacy profession to further support the mental health and wellbeing of people across Scotland.

“Pharmacy staff across all sectors can work together to take forward innovative approaches that will enhance the care we provide to people with mental health problems.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20208496

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