A new study has underlined the need for pharmacy staff across England to take on a greater role in improving public health across the nation.
Conducted by Durham University and published in BMJ Open, the research suggested that pharmacies could play a vital role in tackling major public health concerns such as obesity and smoking, due to the fact that the vast majority of people in England live within easy walking distance of a pharmacy.
Overall, 89 per cent of the population was found to have access to a community pharmacy within a 20-minute walk, rising to almost almost 100 per cent in areas of greatest deprivation.
This represents a reversal of the so-called inverse care law, where good medical care is generally most readily available to those who need it least. Since pharmacies are most readily found in the poorest areas, services that promote healthy lifestyles and the modification of health-related behaviours could make a huge impact.
According to the study, factors such as these mean pharmacists are well-placed to understand the complexities associated with health inequalities, allowing them to deliver tailored solutions for the communities they serve.
The less formal approach adopted by pharmacies, as well as the geographical convenience, makes it easier for them to offer crucial health advice and guidance to many patients who would not typically engage with other healthcare settings.
Lead author Dr Adam Todd, from Durham University's School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health, said: "These results show that pharmacies are well-placed in the community to deliver public health services. This is particularly important for the poorest areas where more people die from conditions such as smoking, alcohol misuse and obesity compared to people from more affluent areas.
He added: "The results suggest there is potential for community pharmacies to deliver public health interventions to areas which need it most."
Involving pharmacists more centrally in NHS planning could also help the government to meet its stated goals of reducing pressures on emergency services, moving the focus of care provision into the community and adopting a more preventative approach to public health issues.
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