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Pharmacists to take on public health role

Published on 15/06/04 at 01:19pm

The government's drive to transform pharmacists into leading frontline healthcare professionals is to be spearheaded by a new consortium of charities and professional bodies.

The government has awarded a contract to four organisations - Pharmacy HealthLink, The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, the Faculty of Public Health and the UK Public Health Association - to engage with community pharmacists and carry out surveys, and explore how they can enhance their contribution to public health by providing health advice, particularly to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.

This summer's UK launch of simvastatin as Johnson & Johnson MSD's over-the-counter Zocor Heart Pro will be a landmark in increasing responsibility for community pharmacists and providing new, accessible services to the public - an innovative approach the government wants to see extended into a number of directions.

Minister of State for Health Rosie Winterton said: "To date, pharmacists have been a major untapped resource for health improvement. The track record of community pharmacists in areas such as stopping smoking, sexual health advice and substance misuse is evidence of how integral they are to tackling public health issues.

"But we would like pharmacists to do even more and get involved in aspects of care such as checking people's blood pressure and even measuring blood glucose levels. This consortium will help maximise the contribution of pharmacists, their staff and the premises in which they work, playing a part in helping people enjoy healthier lives by giving them access to more information about their healthcare."

The initiative is part of plans to develop a pharmacy public health strategy set out last July in the report: A Vision for Pharmacy in the New NHS, which looks at ways to expand the role of pharmacists, to be embodied in a new contract currently under negotiation with the government.

The role of pharmacists in public health also forms part of Choosing Health, a consultation on public health launched in March 2004 by Health Secretary John Reid. The consultation is ongoing until the end of June when a White Paper will be published later in the year.

Professor James McEwen, chair of PharmacyHealthLink, said: "On behalf of all consortium members, we are delighted to be working with the Department of Health on this ground-breaking national strategy which will provide a framework for the development of pharmacy's contribution to public health.  

"Pharmacists, their staff and the NHS will all benefit from this important piece of work which we hope will bring public health benefits, such as broadening access to NHS advice and services, very soon."

Other efforts to expand the role of pharmacists included the campaign Pop Down Your Local, aimed at encouraging men to make the most of community pharmacies, which was launched recently through collaboration between The Men's Health Forum and pharmacists' body the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.


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