NICE touch – but will NHS England listen?

Opinion

NICE touch – but will NHS England listen?

Will the recent NICE guidance, which focuses on how community pharmacies can help maintain and improve people’s physical and mental health, also focus the minds of NHS England and Public Health England? Mike Holden from Pharmacy Complete hopes so

Mike Holden

NHS England and Public Health England are increasingly looking for solutions to address worsening health inequalities, yet we are still seeing the decommissioning of services such as sexual health, smoking cessation and substance misuse to name but a few. There is an obvious disconnect between policy and action.

The NICE guidelines (‘Community pharmacies: promoting health and wellbeing’) are a very good fit with the objectives and ethos of healthy living pharmacies (HLP). Those pharmacies that have fully embraced the HLP ethos will be well placed to tackle the challenges – but what will this require?

  • Local commissioners and other providers need to engage with and promote community pharmacy as an integral part of primary care services
  • LPCs need to work with local commissioners to develop and commission more appropriately funded services
  • Community pharmacies must publicise their skills and services through every channel to increase the public’s knowledge and confidence in those services
  • They must also proactively promote people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. This includes raising awareness, providing information, advice and support, and signposting or referral to and from other services. This could happen when responding to requests for advice, selling OTC medicines or supplying prescription medicines and supporting a patient with a long-term condition
  • Brief interventions are needed that are focused on local needs, are consistently of high quality, tailored to the individual, use professional support materials and the pharmacy team members who deliver them must have the right skills and knowledge
  • There also needs to be a system to capture a minimum data set to evidence these interventions and referrals.

What can you do now?

  • Understand your local needs – a good place to start is your local health profile
  • Engage with others. Be proactive and continue a dialogue with other local providers and commissioners to understand their needs
  • Develop a programme of health promotional activity out in the community. This makes a real difference and is both fun and effective in promoting what you can do
  • Develop capability – many HLPs have invested in the health champion qualification to give staff the knowledge, skills and confidence to make every contact count
  • Look at private service opportunities to address unmet local needs.

While this a very challenging time for pharmacy contractors, the sector must constantly adapt to the evolving needs of healthcare to remain relevant and compelling to both commissioners and consumers of its services.

Becoming a HLP is just the beginning; it should be the foundation of a healthier future for community pharmacy and the communities it serves.

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