The vision document, ‘Prevention is better than cure’, launched by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) yesterday (5 November) envisages a ‘stronger role’ for community pharmacies.

“The government wants to encourage more people to make the most of their local pharmacy, and for local pharmacies to play a stronger role in helping people stay well in the community,” the document said.

DHSC said primary care that includes community pharmacy along with other components like general practice, dental, and optometry services is a ‘central part’ of the government’s approach to prevention and the long-term plan for the NHS.

In fact, a salient feature of the document is the marked shift in focus to the role of primary and community care services in offering early support.

“Over the course of our lives, our first and most frequent interactions with health and social care services are likely to be with our GP, school nurse, dentist, local pharmacist, social worker, health visitor or midwife,” it notes.

This puts them in a “unique position to influence and guide our lifestyle choices, and to spot when we might need help,” adds the document.

Healthy Living Pharmacies find a particular emphasis in the document. These community pharmacies, numbering almost 10,000 in England, deliver various lifestyle and health interventions, and promote wellbeing and self-care services.

The document also stresses the need of close working partnerships between GPs and other professionals such as pharmacists and community nurses. It suggests them to work together in the same building or collaborate virtually. It added that an independent review is currently underway on the models that support primary care staff, other services and the populations they serve.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, addressing the annual meeting of the International Association of National Public Health Institutes yesterday, hinted that more funding may be on the anvil for community pharmacies.

“As the government is spending £20.5 billion more of taxpayers’ hard-earned cash over the next 5 years, … we must see the proportion of funding on primary and community care in the NHS rise. And that is exactly what will happen in the long-term plan,” he said to the gathering.

Hancock didn’t delve in detail on the allocation of extra funds. A forthcoming social care green paper from the DHSC is expected to throw more light on the funding plan for the sector.

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