Building Capacity: Realising the potential of community pharmacy assets for improving the public’s health

Executive summary 
  • With a workforce in England including approximately 42,990 registered pharmacists and 19,311 registered pharmacy technicians,a community pharmacy teams have considerable potential for promoting the public’s health.
  • Community pharmacies, numbering roughly 11,647, arguably offer an ideal location to reach out to local communities, with qualified teams providing healthy lifestyle advice and services in an accessible and convenient way.
  • Through this joint report, the Royal Society for Public Health and Public Health England sought to look in greater depth at the role of community pharmacy in promoting the public’s health, particularly exploring what makes pharmacy an appropriate location for health promoting interventions, the opportunities for further utilisation and also the challenges experienced by pharmacy teams.
  • For this report, we utilised a survey, semi-structured interviews and focus groups with pharmacy team members, local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) chief officers and commissioners from local authorities, clinical commissioning groups and NHS England.
  • Building on previous publications, this report demonstrates the appetite of pharmacy teams for adopting a greater public health role, and the support of commissioners, particularly those in local authorities, for achieving this.
  • Many pharmacies across the UK are now commissioned to provide a wide range of public health services and advice, including, but not limited to, smoking cessation services, weight management services and NHS Health Checks. However, this report also highlights the strong feeling amongst pharmacy team members and commissioners alike that pharmacy is currently being under-utilised and indicates a number of challenges to overcome this.
  • These challenges include the issue of capacity in terms of insufficient training and lack of appropriate facilities. Our report findings suggest that some pharmacy teams feel they have insufficient time to dedicate to public health, meaning that attending training, participating in meetings and providing public health advice and services can at times be difficult.
  • A further challenge is presented by the commissioning landscape itself, with some respondents and interviewees highlighting the comparative absence of pharmacy from this process and the difficulty posed by a perceived lack of pharmacy champions.
  • Alongside this, our findings suggest that a lack of awareness and understanding amongst commissioners and the public continues to present a difficulty for both commissioning and service uptake. Consequently, many respondents called for more joint meetings, joint training and a greater focus on communicating pharmacy’s health improvement role.