UK pharmacies have a bigger role to play in supporting the health of their communities, according to a new report.
Research by Durham University demonstrated that 89 per cent of people in England live within a 20-minute walk of a pharmacy, while that proportion rises to nearly 100 per cent for people in deprived areas.
This reach means that community pharmacies are well placed to support public health, according to the study authors, with suggestions that they can provide services such as blood pressure checks and diabetes screenings.
The potential for pharmacies in deprived areas is especially important as this goes against the 'inverse care law' – a theory that suggests good medical care is most available to those who need it least.
"This is particularly important for the poorest areas where more people die from conditions such as smoking, alcohol misuse and obesity compared to people from more affluent areas,” said lead author Dr Adam Todd.
"With easy access without patients needing to make an appointment, the results suggest there is a potential for community pharmacies to deliver public health interventions to areas which need it most."
The suggestion that pharmacies had a bigger role to play in public health was welcomed by Dr David Branford, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's pharmacy board.
“The less formal approach and sheer convenience provided by a high street presence means they are a beacon of wellbeing and advice to many who would simply never engage with other healthcare settings,” said Dr Branford.
He added: “This study confirms their accessibility and the huge potential they have for delivery of quality healthcare to those who need it most.”
The report, which was published in the BMJ Open journal, says the results are timely following the recent launch of the NHS England initiative Call to Action, which is seeking to develop local strategy for community pharmacy initiatives and inform strategic policy making in terms of commissioning community pharmacy services
“Our work supports this initiative and shows that community pharmacies are uniquely placed in the community to deliver healthcare interventions,” said the study authors.