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The variation game


The variation game

NPA public affairs manager Gareth Jones compares and contrasts health issues in different EU countries

As we consider the role of the community pharmacy sector in the UK, it can be interesting
to note the similarities and differences among the health priorities in countries elsewhere across Europe.

In the UK there are a number of specific issues in primary and secondary care which community pharmacy could affect. For example, in secondary care the average number of delayed transfers of care continues to increase, according to a recent report from NHS England.1 Community pharmacy has long been campaigning for better communication at the point of patient discharge to improve outcomes.

Within public health, hospital admissions due to smoking and alcohol have both increased.2,3 And, of course, in primary care the increasing demands on general practice are a great concern.4 Access to community pharmacy for the treatment of minor illness and advice on prevention of disease is therefore of utmost importance.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which works with governments to improve quality of life by promoting policies affecting social and economic wellbeing, has produced a series of summaries highlighting key statistics around the health issues of a number of countries.

In France, there are high levels of antibiotic prescribing and an above average hospital admission rate for diabetes, where patients could be better managed in primary care. There are also calls for more community- based services for mental health.

In Ireland, the occupancy rate for acute care beds is one of the highest among OECD countries. Hospital admissions for COPD and asthma are also high, and OECD suggests that disease management could be strengthened at primary care level. Generic prescribing is very low compared to the UK: 29 per cent, versus 83 per cent here.

Public provision of care for the elderly is poor in Italy and the OECD calls for primary care models focusing on prevention of chronic disease to be developed.

Meanwhile, smoking rates and childhood obesity levels in Greece are worryingly high, with suggestions for more primary care intervention and counselling on healthy lifestyle choices.

Problems facing health systems are not isolated to the UK. But for NHS transformation to succeed, pharmacy must be at its core. If care becomes more integrated and properly funded, we believe that improvements are achievable.


  1. NHS England, Delayed Transfers of Care Statistics for England 2015/2016 (June 2016)  
  2. Health and Social Care Information Centre, Statistics on Smoking England 2016 (May 2016)
  3. Public Health England, Health Matters: Harmful Drinking and alcohol dependence (January 2016)  
  4. The King’s Fund, Understanding Pressures in General Practice, (May 2016)
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