While the role of the pharmacist becomes increasingly clinical, it must not be forgotten that the provision of advice to support patients to self-medicate appropriately remains amongst the most important functions of today’s community pharmacist. Without clinically appropriate advice there is always the possibility that patients and consumers will either not access medicines that could help in the management of their symptoms, support them in the treatment of self-limiting conditions or worse still, inappropriately self-medicate which could actually lead to the worsening of a condition or itself lead to medication induced illness.
The role of the pharmacist in supporting people to manage their own health and in tackling health inequality has been long recognised, if not fully utilised. Preventing the development of ill health by helping people understand the long-term impacts of a poor lifestyle (inactivity and poor dietary choices being chief amongst them) is something that the profession has long seen as important. The need to change behaviours is critical if the health of the UK population is to improve. Without those who can help support change working together is likely to be a difficult, if not an impossible task and the consequences of not doing so are an ever-worsening health of the nation and increased pressure on already struggling NHS services.
That is why I was delighted to see that the recently published NHS Long Term Plan has signalled a focus on preventative care, the recognition that healthcare professionals (and specifically recognising the role of pharmacists in this) had a key role to play and that empowerment of patients to take greater responsibility for their own health as necessary. When the RPS commented on the NHS Long Term Plan we stated that we were confident that pharmacists and their teams across primary care could deliver many of the measures identified in the plan, including support for early detection and prevention of disease. To do so requires all the players to work together – strong system leadership to create the right environment and the professions and industry to work collaboratively to provide products and services than can make a real impact.
We strongly believe that good patient care demands the skills and expertise of pharmacists. That is why the RPS has a mission to put pharmacy at the forefront of healthcare and why I was delighted to see that in PAGB’s ‘Self Care White Paper’ published in March. Amongst its seven key recommendations (to be included in what was proposed as a national self care strategy) there were three that specifically spoke to the role of pharmacists and pharmacy and three others that also related in some way to the education and practice of pharmacists (and other healthcare professionals).
The close links between the views and opinions regarding health advancement that exist between the RPS, as the professional leadership body, and PAGB, as the consumer health association, dates from a time long before the publication of the NHS Long Term Plan. While our two organisations have different memberships, our agendas have often overlapped and during the last one hundred years our two bodies have worked together on several issues that have had an impact on patients and consumers and their access to OTC medicines. We also share a common ancestry. A former Secretary to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (1918 to 1926), Sir William Samuel Glyn-Jones was also at PAGB’s inaugural meeting in 1919.
It is clear to us that the interests of patients and consumers are best served when the organisations that represent those healthcare professionals and the healthcare industry work towards a common purpose. The RPS vision to become the world leader in the safe and effective use of medicines will only be achieved when organisations like PAGB work with us because we both recognise how important it is that patients and consumers have access to safe and effective products, access to clinically appropriate information and advice and through this are empowered to look after their own health.
As PAGB moves towards its second centenary, the RPS looks forward to continuing to work collaboratively and in the same spirit as the past 100 years.
Paul Bennett FRPharmS,CEO, Royal Pharmaceutical Society