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UK pharmacists to have greater role in public health

Community pharmacies should be part of ‘primary care family’, says Kevin Fenton
kevin fenton public health england

Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England

The UK government should support community pharmacists in England to play a more active role in the prevention and early intervention of disease, according to a senior public health figure.

Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England (PHE), said that he wants pharmacy to have greater influence on strategic decision for improving health at both a national and local level and to be considered part of the “primary care family”.

“Too often when you hear of primary care it goes to general practitioner and that is wrong,” said Fenton, who was speaking last week at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's congress in Birmingham. “We need to think about primary in its truest sense; the broad archipelago of providers, practitioners and assets in a community that can engage individuals, families and community members much early on.”

Community pharmacies are set to be a key asset in this collaboration, according to Fenton, who stressed the importance of a united front on public health in the face of increasing prevalence of chronic disease, rising obesity and an ageing population.

Fenton singled out the potential for community pharmacies to help tackle health inequality, referencing a recent report that demonstrated 89% of people in England live within a 20-minute walk of a pharmacy but that this increases to nearly 100% in areas with high levels of deprivation.

“Community pharmacies provide offerings in terms of access, location and environmental, as well as informality of setting. This creates great accessibility to wider range of individuals,” said Fenton.

To support this PHE intends to integrate pharmacy in all health improvement programmes at a national level, including inviting representatives to ask questions on the pharmacy angle.

Fenton gave the ongoing example of PHE's national strategy to tackle uncontrolled high blood pressure.

“We cannot rely on general practice alone to get ahead of epidemic curve and make a step change,” said Fenton. “We know pharmacists are equipped and scaled in testing blood pressure and communicating results and community pharmacist can help support adherence.”

Health minister Lord Howe, who spoke earlier in the day at the RPS meeting, also addressed the potential for pharmacists to support improved adherence via medicines optimisation.

“Pharmacists are needed to persuade, to champion, to demonstrate and disseminate just what a difference medicines optimisation can make to improving health and care serves and improving outcomes,” said Lord Howe.

Article by
Thomas Meek

15th September 2014

From: Sales, Healthcare

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