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Pharmacy has a pivotal role to play in public health

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Unique ID: 9441 Caption: A pharmacy or dispensing chemist counter. A pharmacist behind the counter talking to and serving a woman. High street pharmacy. Restrictions: Copyright: ©Crown Copyright

Community pharmacy teams have a pivotal role to play in improving people’s health and helping to reduce health inequalities.

Across the country, they also have a long and excellent track record of delivering health promoting interventions and there is increasing interest from the sector to take on a greater role in improving the public’s health in their communities,  with many examples of innovative delivery and best practice.

A new report published today by the Royal Society for Public Health, Building capacity: realising the potential of community pharmacy assets for improving the public’s health,  highlights the opportunities for greater use of pharmacy teams for improving the public’s health, in light of their location, accessibility, convenience and relationship with the public.

With financial pressures growing alongside ever-increasing demands on the health and care system, there is a clear need to involve others in the wider public health workforce, in particular pharmacy teams with all of the advantages they bring such as access, long opening hours, having trusted professionals on site and staff that reflect the diversity of their communities,  with the expertise and opportunity to reach out to the public with support and advice.

This is critical if we are to deliver the radical upgrade in prevention and public health called for in the NHS Five Year Forward View in order to help ensure the future sustainability of our national health service and stem the growing tide of preventable diseases.

The report provides some key recommendations for pharmacy’s future engagement in public health and identifies some challenges that need to be addressed, such as training needs, lack of integration with general practice and the need to raise awareness of the public health role of pharmacy teams, both with commissioners and the public.

However, if we can tackle those challenges, there is no doubt that pharmacy teams can be much better used to promote public health and secure better health outcomes.

Healthy living pharmacies

With 1.2 million people visiting a community pharmacy every day, pharmacy teams have an enormous opportunity to promote health at a local level.

For some people, the local pharmacy will be their first point of contact, or their only contact, with a health care professional.

And with 95% of the population living within a 20-minute walk of a community pharmacy, they can help to provide greater access to people living in areas of higher deprivation.

At PHE, we want to champion the pivotal role of community pharmacies in improving population health and embed pharmacy in our leading public health programmes as a key strategic partner.

Many pharmacies across the UK are now commissioned to provide a wide range of public health services and advice, including, but not limited to, smoking cessation services, weight management services and NHS Health Checks.

However, we want pharmacies to also play a central role in our leading public health programmes, such as early detection and management of blood pressure, dementia awareness and diabetes prevention, and be fully integrated into local primary care networks and the public health workforce.

Pharmacies that consistently exhibit a healthy living ethos and proactive approach to health are awarded the healthy living pharmacy (HLP) quality mark provided they satisfy certain quality criteria and have some enablers in place, and I’m delighted that there are now more than 2,100 healthy living  pharmacies and growing .

This includes more than 3,500 qualified health champions,  pro-actively reaching out to communities from within the pharmacy and through outreach in schools, workplaces and community centres, promoting healthy lifestyles via brief advice, signposting and public health service provision.

The Royal Society for Public Health has been awarded the contract following a formal tender process, to develop and implement a proportionate Quality Assurance process for the profession-led self-assessment process for Level 1 healthy living pharmacies.

The inclusion of a quality payment for level 1 HLPs by NHS England provides an enormous opportunity to accelerate the HLP concept even further.

Promoting prevention

PHE is working alongside the Pharmacy and Public Health Forum to publish a suite of quality assured case studies, which will support the mobilisation of pharmacy in respect of public health delivery,  to demonstrate best practice by pharmacy teams in supporting the delivery of public health programmes, particularly those included in the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) menu of preventative interventions.

For example, healthy living pharmacy teams can help deliver brief advice for alcohol, NHS Health Checks, and the prevention, early detection and management of high blood pressure.

I am pleased to say that PHE is supporting Pharmacy Voice’s work programme on further engaging pharmacy teams in the prevention, early detection and management of blood pressure, with the  expectation of  a report  being published by Pharmacy Voice early in the new year.

We're keen to work with leaders in the pharmacy profession to drive forward pharmacy’s  important contribution to public health programmes, including the recommendations made in the RSPH report.

We have now published three HLP newsletters, which celebrate good practice as well as support skills development, and each newsletter focuses on a specific topic. To subscribe please contact

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Chris Armstrong posted on

    This us all impossible to achieve after all pharmacies have been forced to cut staff and opening hours due to the government's imposed pharmacy funding cuts