Hancock’s half hour…

The new(ish) health secretary Matt Hancock has shown he has a sense of humour and at least some idea of how community pharmacists contribute to primary care.

Speaking at the National Association of Primary Care conference on October 18, he – perhaps mistakenly – described GPs are the first port of call for patients. He recognised the workload pressures facing GPs, but pointed out that they are part of a team.

Mr Hancock said: "We are helping other primary care workers, like dentists and pharmacists, to expand their services so we can make best use of their skills and lighten the load on GPs.

"Just to give you one example: community pharmacies. We have seen the flu vaccination programme reach more than a million (1.3m) people over the past 3 years with people able to get vaccinated quickly and close to home.

"Last year, an estimated 12,500 high-risk asthma patients were identified and referred for review by pharmacists. I want to see more of these kinds of partnerships to prevent ill health in pre-primary care."

And he had something to say about preventative care: "Prevention is better than cure ‒ this is such an old saying that we take it as a given. It’s become a cliché. But as a new Health Secretary, I thought I’d better make sure I know where it comes from.

"Google suggested Benjamin Franklin, who said “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”, but it was actually the 16th century Dutch philosopher Erasmus who coined the insight, which has shaped our approach to medicine for nearly 5 centuries.

"The irony to this is that Erasmus died suddenly from an attack of dysentery, which we now know is wholly avoidable with the right prevention."

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