Foreword from Mike Holden, Chief executive National Pharmacy Association and member of Pharmacy Voice
Community pharmacies are well placed to offer the NHS Health Check programme. With over 11,500 pharmacies in the heart of communities across England and more than 1.6 million health-related visits a day, that is 438 million interactions a year that could be converted into opportunities for health and wellbeing interventions.
Pharmacists and their teams can reach people, particularly in deprived communities, who either can’t or don’t want to visit a GP. Over 85% of pharmacies already have consultation rooms, are open longer hours, and offer what many people may see as an accessible and welcoming environment. The skills of pharmacy teams have improved in recent years, so as well as regulated training they now have clinical, technical and behavioural expertise. Many pharmacies now employ health champions who actively engage with their local communities, providing brief interventions on alcohol, smoking, physical activity and healthy diet.
Local authority public health commissioners can confidently consider the community pharmacy network to deliver the NHS Health Check. Pharmacies often have good links with local GP practices and excellent relationships with local people, along with the required premises and skills to deliver the NHS Health Check, and to communicate the results and support people through any necessary lifestyle changes.
There are barriers that need to be overcome around data, commissioning processes and sustainable funding. However, there are many areas where this is already being done, including Portsmouth, Norfolk and others. Community pharmacies have the will to help, and we need to find the way to make this happen in every community for the benefit of people’s future health and wellbeing. Local authorities can contact their local pharmaceutical committees to discuss a way forward. The Local Government Association has also published an excellent resource on community pharmacies on its website, which explains more.