About Community Pharmacy
Community pharmacists were known in the past as chemists. Like GPs, community pharmacists are part of the NHS family. Every day about 1.8 million people visit a pharmacy in England.
Community pharmacies are situated in high street locations, in neighbourhood centres, in supermarkets and in the heart of the most deprived communities. Many are open long hours when other health care professionals are unavailable. There are several different types and sizes of community pharmacies, ranging from the large chains with shops on every High Street or in edge of town supermarkets, to small individually owned pharmacies in small communities, in the suburbs and often in deprived areas or rural settings.
The traditional role of the community pharmacist as the healthcare professional who dispenses prescriptions written by doctors has changed. In recent years community pharmacists have been developing clinical services in addition to the traditional dispensing role to allow better integration and team working with the rest of the NHS.
The accessibility of community pharmacies
Community pharmacists are easily accessible with around 10,500 community pharmacies in England located where people live, shop and work. The latest information shows that 99% of the population – even those living in the most deprived areas – can get to a pharmacy within 20 minutes by car and 96% by walking or using public transport. Community pharmacy is consequently a socially inclusive healthcare service providing a convenient and less formal environment for those who cannot easily access or do not choose to access other kinds of health service. Most pharmacies now have a private consultation area specifically for confidential or sensitive discussions.
The NHS Community Pharmacy contract for England and Wales was introduced in 2005. Under the contract your community pharmacy will provide the following Essential Services:
The Dispensing Service – working to a prescription, pharmacists will provide you with your medicines labelled correctly following the directions of a GP or other healthcare provider who can write prescriptions (e.g. nurses, dentists or pharmacists). The number of prescription items dispensed by community pharmacies in England in 2008-09 was 771.5 million.
The Repeat Dispensing Service – this service allows you to collect your regular repeat prescription medicines direct from your local pharmacy for an agreed period of time, without having to go back to your GP. You will need to give your permission to your GP for him/her to share information with your chosen pharmacist. When you need your prescription, instead of requesting it from your GP, you will be able to get your medicines directly from your local pharmacy.
Disposal of Unwanted Medicines – if you have any medicines that you no longer use, you can take them to your local pharmacy for safe disposal.
Promotion of Healthy Lifestyles – this service will provide you with advice on keeping healthy; this could be advice on healthy eating, stopping smoking and exercise. You may be able to get leaflets and written information to help you make healthier choices. Your pharmacy will also take part in local health promotion campaigns such as taking care in the sun and understanding the risks of long term conditions such as diabetes.
Signposting to other Services – your pharmacy will provide you with contact details for additional help if needed from other healthcare professionals, social services or voluntary organisations.
Support for Self-Care – this service helps you to look after and care for yourself and your family. Your pharmacy will provide you with advice on treating minor illnesses, e.g. coughs and colds or long term conditions such as arthritis or diabetes. This support may include medicines which you can buy over the counter from the pharmacy without a prescription.
The use of IT is starting to develop rapidly in community pharmacies. PSNC is currently working with the Department of Health to integrate community pharmacy into the many NHS IT programmes. This may eventually include pharmacists having access to patients’ electronic care records where there is a need to access information in order to safely provide pharmacy services. Additionally, electronic prescriptions are now being issued by some GP practices and by the end of 2010 it is likely that the majority of prescriptions will be issued as electronic messages, rather than the current pieces of paper.
The pharmacy contract has prompted the installation of private consultation areas in most pharmacies where patients can freely discuss sensitive issues, safe in the knowledge that they will not be overheard by other members of the public. These private areas are also used to conduct a new national pharmacy service called Medicines Use Reviews (MURs). An MUR is a consultation between the pharmacist and a patient that lasts approximately 10-20 minutes. It provides an opportunity for the patient to discuss how they use their medicines and to find out more about them; and the service is designed to supplement (and not replace) the more in depth clinical reviews that are conducted at GP practices.
Almost any patient can have an MUR consultation providing they have been using the pharmacy for more than 3 months and the pharmacist feels that the patient will benefit from the review. Since the introduction of MURs there has been a steady increase in the number of pharmacies offering the service to their patients. In 2009/10 1.4 million MURs were provided in England.