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November 29, 2017

Rethinking pharmacies

No one needs reminding that health services are under constant pressure (even more so at this time of the year) and there has been significant investment in trying to bridge the gap between frontline services and the communities in which they serve. For instance, a small army of Link Workers has been recruited recently with Scottish Government funding to build more effective relationships between GP practices and local organisations and services. Think tank, Res Publica, make the case for a complete re-evaluation of one resource in particular that can be found in almost every community – the community pharmacy.


A report from ResPublica

Launched on 20th November, ResPublica’s new report – Heartbeats on the High Street: How Community Pharmacy can transform Britain’s health, wealth and wellbeing – highlights the unique role and “social capital” of Community Pharmacy. By putting pharmacies at the heart of public health, we argue that they can become vital institutions of localism, care and social reform.


The NHS is under unprecedented strain from the rise of long-term conditions and an increasing population. As doctors and hospitals struggle to meet capacity, this report makes the case for Community Pharmacy as a transformative solution for the health and wellbeing of our country.

A system in crisis needs radical ideas for change. Doctors and hospitals are vital in the fight against disease, but they cannot be expected to carry the burden of unhealthy lifestyles and long-term conditions like obesity, hypertension and diabetes. We need a local, people-focussed resource that can tackle these conditions at root. And because many of these conditions are linked to problems of social and economic deprivation, we need an institution that is already connected with our most disadvantaged communities.

Community Pharmacy is embedded on high streets in almost every part of the country, including our most deprived neighbourhoods. It is staffed by a network of clinically trained professionals who have the capacity to prevent illnesses that cost the taxpayer billions of pounds each year. This report calls for a greater role for pharmacies in the fight for good public health. It recommends giving Community Pharmacy leadership in preventing and managing long-term conditions, by making NHS health checks for the over-40s available to the whole adult population. Because these conditions harm employment and productivity, and lead to inequality and isolation, the report shows how a greater use of Community Pharmacy reduces social inequality and increases economic savings.

Rt Hon Sir Kevin Barron MP, Chair of the Health Select Committee 2005-2010 and Chair of the All-Party Pharmacy Group said: “The NHS is in need of radical change. As we face the prospect of another winter crisis, we cannot keep repeating the same old debate over GP capacity, long-term conditions and primary care reform. What we need is a vision that includes all of the resources we have at our disposal, and puts them to use in a truly integrated way. This report makes a valuable contribution to the debate over how our healthcare institutions can better serve the wellbeing of society. I commend ResPublica for their important and timely intervention”.

Katharine Jenner, CEO of Blood Pressure UK said: “Around one in three people in the UK are now living with high blood pressure which remains the single biggest cause of death. What’s more, a shocking 6.5 million people still remain undiagnosed. Blood Pressure UK supports this health check initiative, as we encourage everyone to make a habit of knowing their blood pressure numbers, as this is the first step to reducing their blood pressure and risk of stroke and heart attack. If you start making small changes to your lifestyle when you are young such as eating less salt, more fruit and vegetables, taking more exercise and keeping to a healthy weight, you will stay healthier and prevent strokes and heart disease in the future”.

Heather Henry, Chair of the New NHS Alliance said: “Community pharmacy is highly accessible and non-stigmatising, so it is central to the battle of tackling health inequality.  This sector has long been undervalued and its potential for social, as well as clinical innovation is massive.”

Phillip Blond, Director of ResPublica said: “Community pharmacies are an untapped asset on our high streets and should be viewed as a key institution for delivering primary care and reducing the burden on GPs. The Government can no longer afford to overlook the value of community pharmacies to local communities and the range of social and economic benefits they can bring.’’