How local pharmacies can lighten the load for the NHS

Adam Layland, senior lecturer in leadership and management in Coventry University’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, outlines how local pharmacies can become community health centre hubs and ease the strain on primary care services in a blog originally published by Insider Media.

Times are changing across the health and social care system across the UK. Austerity and cut-backs are stretching resources further and the entire healthcare system needs to innovate and open up opportunities to reduce the burden on services.

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Adam Layland

I am very proud to be working with local partners and national bodies to achieve what some consider to be impossible; widening access to pharmacies for the primary care of patients.

Recently NHS England have launched a national project promoting pharmacies for minor injuries and illnesses, to reduce the workload of GP surgeries and the emergency departments. This is encouraging and is targeted directly at the general public.

Here at Coventry University we are going one step further and are now delivering a new community pharmacy technician training and development 12 month pilot programme.

Community pharmacy technicians’ responsibilities include assembling medicines under the supervision of pharmacists, supplying prescriptions and providing advice to patients and other healthcare professionals so they play an important part in the health care services.

Backed by NHS England and Health Education England through the Pharmacy Integration Fund we are giving the pharmacy technicians extra development in leadership and management, which will provide them with the skills to help their pharmacies deliver better services and become more integrated in their local communities.

However, it’s not just the technicians we’ll be developing. The entire pharmacy workforce will benefit from a bespoke organisational development plan, to help with recruitment and retention of good staff, and to better position the pharmacy to become patients’ first choice for their health needs.

Years ago your local community would have been the epicentre of everything you needed.  But that has slowly diminished over the years, and the change has impacted on the most vulnerable members of our society who cannot travel far due to their medical needs.

Having a service close to them, which goes beyond what a pharmacy is typically considered to be – a place to collect prescriptions or over-the-counter tablets – into a community hub for health and wellbeing could improve the health of the nation, from a local level.

Do you ever consider going to the pharmacy if you have a chesty cough? Would you go if you had a fever? If not, why not? Pharmacies are better suited to treat all minor injuries and illnesses. They can be much quicker than waiting for a GP appointment too. And that’s not all. Pharmacies can support your long-term conditions and assist you in managing your illnesses, whilst also giving you the latest advice and treatment. So next time you’re unwell, why not go to the pharmacy first and experience it for yourself.

Overarching the 12 month programme that we’re delivering in pharmacies across the West Midlands is a research strand which will explore the current workforce in pharmacies and scope out the future of community pharmacy and the pharmacy technician profession.

We know that only research that is structured and has a quality methodology can actually find out what is happening and what can be done for the future. I’m very excited to explore the challenges and limitations within community pharmacy but also to use the experience and knowledge I have and that of my colleagues at Coventry University, to make recommendations to government on the future of community pharmacy.

Furthermore, while we are currently trialling the programme across the West Midlands, it could be rolled out nationally from 2019 onwards so that everything learned locally can be shared nationally for the improvement of patient care everywhere in the UK.

The healthcare system is changing across the country and you can help to protect our National Health Service, the benevolent nurse of the nation, by using pharmacies. It may seem like a simple solution, but trust me, it’s very effective.

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