Studies suggest healthcare contributes only about 10 per cent to preventing premature deaths, while changes in behaviour amount to 40 per cent. So said Professor Kevin Fenton, the outgoing national director, health and wellbeing at Public Health England.
Speaking at the recent Pharmacy Voice forum held in central London, he told delegates that if the public were fully involved in managing their health and engaged in prevention activities, £30 billion could be saved.
Pharmacy offers a “huge opportunity” for health promoting interventions with 1.2 million health-related visits to 11,688 pharmacies in England every day. High blood pressure should be a key focus as the third biggest risk factor for disease, with 5 million people still undiagnosed.
Many pharmacies are already engaged in delivering public health interventions and the sector is ready and willing to deliver more, he said. However, there is significant variation across the country in the level of integration of pharmacy into clinical pathways and public health service provision.
About a third of local authorities commission NHS Health Checks from community pharmacies and just under half of upper tier authorities are using pharmacies to deliver chlamydia screening. Most public health services are commissioned through individual local authority contracts and there is significant variation across the country in contract tariff and content.
Public Health England would like to see greater consistency of quality and delivery of public health interventions through community pharmacies, he said.
Healthy living pharmacies provide a “great model for consistently delivering high quality public health interventions”.
Professor Fenton said PHE will promote pharmacy’s pivotal role in improving the public’s health by embedding the sector more visibly as part of cross-team work on areas such as blood pressure, sexual health and physical activity. It will also continue to provide strategic leadership for the development and accelerated roll-out of healthy living pharmacies.