Ade is a highly regarded community pharmacist who leads the team at Bedminster Pharmacy is South Bristol. “The NHS has got the prevention agenda right at top of its priority at the moment but it’s not a new thing for community pharmacists,” he began.
He said he encourages his pharmacy staff to look at transferring what they have been doing into the new framework, a new thinking and a new language and sometimes even a new way of working.
Call to arms
Ade called the focus on prevention “a pharmacy call to arms.”
That’s because, he argued, there has been a consistent message from the government when the former Prime Minister, Theresa May, released her now-famous Prevention Green Paper in July 2018, that since then in every single policy, every single announcement, the prevention agenda has been the key to how health is going to be delivered in the country.
“Your pharmacy is linked to that agenda, to what the NHS is talking about,” he said.
He reminded the conference that in November 2018, Health Secretary Matt Hancock released a vision document, putting prevention at the heart of it and called it ‘Prevention is better than cure’ the purpose of which has been to help people “stay healthy, happy and independent for as long as possible”.
Ade picked a line from the Health Secretary when he said that two of the biggest health successes in the twentieth century – vaccination and cutting smoking – had prevention at their core.
He said the goals of cutting smoking and implementing mass vaccination were achieved because of the positive intervention of pharmacists “who are the true champions.”
“With year on year increase in the NHS flu vaccination service, we can say that we have been championing the prevention agenda and have helped the country deliver the pledge,” he said, making a reference to the previous speaker Michael Ball’s success with flu jabs.
The focus on prevention itself is predictive medicine, the Health Secretary had said. But it isn’t just the difference between life and death, it’s actually the difference in quality of life, Ade added.
“When we see our patients over a period of time, we see them not getting better but actually getting worse. We also see that the increased mortality, early mortality, that comes from that is something what we should get to address, and many times we have been addressing that.
“So when you think about prevention, it’s not just about preventing people from getting ill but also owning their journey as well, helping them to not progress to something worse, helping to prevent early mortality.
“What prevention is saying to us is this: community pharmacy is the only place that can prevent people getting into the system but when they get into the system we are the only place that can prevent them getting worse while they are in the system.”
Stating that Public Health England has consistently supported the role of the community pharmacy in doing this, he lauded the Healthy Living Pharmacy model (which every pharmacy must now embrace) as the lynchpin of the pharmacy sector.
The idea that community pharmacy can really own healthy living and behavioural changes within their communities is now becoming its very identity within the NHS economy, he said.
Ade quoted PHE Chief Executive Duncan Selbie as saying: “Investing in prevention is the smartest thing we can do. We need to move from a system that detects and treats illnesses to one that also predicts and prevents poor health through promoting health in all policies and puts people back in charge of their own health.”
This, according to Ade, is something “community pharmacy is ideally placed to do.”
From a community pharmacy perspective, the other important aspects of the health secretary’s vision were increasing specialist mental health provision and pregnant women. This sits well within the ideal of wellness and holistic care which pharmacists have now been looking at.
Similarly, the emphasis on reducing loneliness and social isolation is another key role that community pharmacies already play, he said, because of “our social value and our constant interaction with patients.”
“Here is an opportunity for us to use as a leverage for social prescribing through our pharmacies.”
The other thing Ade finds interesting in the document is diagnosing three-quarters of cancers at first and second stage by 2028. As an ambassador of Pancreatic Action cancer charity, this is one area he says he is very passionate about.
“I know from my work, not just in community pharmacy but also in general practices as well, that we have multiple opportunities to promote early cancer detection. We are the only healthcare professionals that can rapidly deploy our team to go out and make a difference.”
The government spends £97 billion of public money on treating disease and only £8 billion on prevention. The health secretary has himself admitted that those numbers don’t stack up.
“This means that the government is telling us that more money is going into prevention. We need to be responsive to that.”
Ade concluded by telling the conference that collecting correct data as evidence to showcase what was being done for each service would help in leveraging pharmacy and pharmacist capability.
This article also appears in the November issue of Pharmacy Business.