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NPA organises patient group roundtable to discuss access to care

In the first of a series of talks with stakeholders about pharmacy themed topics, NPA staff and members met up with leading charities in Westminster to discuss issues around access to medicines, medicines advice and primary care.

The roundtable, which included representatives from the British Heart Foundation, Parkinson’s UK, Kidney
Care UK, the Hepatitis C Society and Healthwatch England, discussed the service user perspective on waiting times, face to face care, digital technology and the importance of integrating community pharmacy care into NHS urgent care pathways.

The meeting agreed on some broad principles and also marked the beginning of a partnership with the charitable sector about reducing the risk of medicines errors.

What really struck a chord with the roundtable was the range of services that a community pharmacy can provide and just how accessible they are. We know that 96% of the population can get to their local pharmacy by walking or using public transport.

Jane Dunnage, a trustee at National Voices who has the autoimmune condition Lupus, said that “community pharmacists don’t blow their own trumpet enough”.

“They do more than dispense pills, and everyone at the meeting agreed that medicines alone, without the wrap around support, are not enough to keep people in good health over the long term,” she explained.

“I want to see pharmacies do more to improve access to care, but this must never be by pitting pharmacists against doctors. As patients, we need to feel that healthcare professionals are a team, not competing.”

Community pharmacist Mike Maguire, of Marton Pharmacy near Middlesbrough, spoke about the North East Community  Pharmacy Referral Scheme, which enables NHS111 to refer set groups of patients to community pharmacies for the assessment, advice and treatment of common ailments.

After the event he said: “What was remarkable is the degree of patient support for pharmacy schemes which are both accessible and integrated. These seem to be two really key ingredients as far as service users are concerned. There was a clear consensus for extending community pharmacy’s role in urgent care and also in relation to supporting people living with long term conditions.”

NPA’s Head of Communication Stephen Fishwick, who organised the event said the roundtable was a “great opportunity to deepen our understanding” of the needs of patients from a policy perspective.

“We should always be very mindful of the patient perspective on developments in pharmaceutical care,” he said.

“The participants at the meeting reminded us that access to care has many dimensions to it – not just proximity and waiting times, but also economic and cultural aspects. We are grateful for the help of National Voices in putting this event together.”

The NPA’s Access to Medicines, Medicines Advice and Primary Care Roundtable took place on 20 March.

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