The English Pharmacy Board (EPB) has said it intends to talk to policy-makers, patient groups and other health professionals about how pharmacists can improve care for people with mental health problems.

During a meeting of its board members yesterday, the EPB agreed that it needed to increase awareness of pharmacists’ roles in mental health which remains a key area of the government’s health policy.

An independent review commissioned by the government last year found that some 300,000 people leave their jobs each year because of mental illness which costs employers £42 billion annually.

One in six adults has had a common mental disorder and mixed anxiety and depression is the cause of one-fifth of days lost from work in the UK according to the Mental Health Foundation.

EPB chair Sandra Gidley said: “We agreed our updated policy on mental health and measures to help members increase support for people with mental health problems. We know that patients don’t always receive the care they need and can struggle to cope with managing long-term physical health conditions.

“With increased risk of premature death this is a huge challenge for the country’s health. We will be speaking to policy-makers, patient groups and the other health professions about how best we can use pharmacists’ skills and expertise to improve outcomes for people with mental health problems.”

Gidley also revealed the EPB will intensify its efforts to ensure pharmacists are able to write into the patient record. Currently pharmacists only have read access to the summary care record.

“Patient care was at the heart of the conversation throughout the meeting and we discussed how RPS England will work with NHS leaders on the new national policy initiative on medicines safety, announced by the Health Secretary in February,” she said.

“This will link with ongoing work by RPS and national partners such as NHS England and NHS Digital to enable pharmacists to update the clinical record. Achieving this goal would be a step-change in enhancing safe and effective treatment across care pathways, especially when more and more pharmacists are looking to become prescribers.”

Gidley added: “We were unanimous in our support of the RPS Task and Finish Group’s recommendations that all pharmacists should have access to foundation training to help them progress in their career in a structured way.

“Without this, training will remain ad hoc, inconsistent and of variable quality. RPS will steward a UK-wide foundation programme which will help create a more level playing field across all sectors, deliver a highly skilled workforce for the future and ultimately benefit patient safety and quality of care.”