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Pharmacy has important mental illness and early cancer diagnosis role


Pharmacy has important mental illness and early cancer diagnosis role

By Neil Trainis

Community pharmacies can play a prominent role in helping people suffering from severe mental health illness and improve early cancer diagnosis, according to a report published yesterday that lays out an ambitious 10-year vision for the sector.

The wide-ranging report, commissioned by Community Pharmacy England and produced by The King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust, calls on the government and NHS England to better support pharmacies with more funding, effective commissioning and the piloting of new services.

It lists a number of services that could be piloted to inform future commissioning, including depression and anxiety management. Other possible pilots include the management of minor injuries, annual asthma reviews, menopause advice including the supply of HRT, diabetes checks, dermatology, including eczema, acne and psoriasis management and pain management.

The report also said pharmacies have an important role to play in reducing health inequalities under NHS England’s Core20PLUS5 programme, which covers five areas including severe mental illness and early cancer diagnosis. The other areas covered by Core20PLUS5 are maternity, chronic respiratory disease and hypertension case-finding and management.

The report said pharmacies “should take the lead in designing relevant Core20PLUS5 interventions” and play a part in ensuring 60 per cent of people with a severe mental illness receive an annual health check.

It also said pharmacies can improve early cancer diagnoses and help Core20PLUS5 meet its target of ensuring 75 per cent of cancer cases are diagnosed at stage one or two by 2028. The report said pharmacists should be able to refer patients for blood tests and to secondary care where appropriate instead of sending them back to their GP.

Pharmacy teams, the report added, can identify “red-flag symptoms indicative of more serious illness” and refer patients “for a more comprehensive clinical assessment when these are present.”

Last year, NHS England said it would run a pilot involving 40 pharmacies to detect the early signs of cancer, such as a cough that lasts for three weeks or more, difficulty swallowing or blood in a patient’s urine, and refer them for a scan if necessary.

Four cancer alliances, which bring together hospital trusts and other health and social care organisations to improve the diagnosis, treatment and care for cancer patients, were involved in the pilot – Greater Manchester Cancer Alliance, Kent and Medway Cancer Alliance, Thames Valley Cancer Alliance and Peninsula Cancer Alliance. 

















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