Headlines: June 14th, 2004

A consortium of four organizations have been awarded contracts by the Department of Health to seek further ways in which the role of pharmacists can be developed to improve health and reduce inequalities. Potential areas for involving pharmacists include giving people more information about their health care, checking blood pressure and measuring blood glucose levels.The consortium will talk to pharmacists and carry out surveys, exploring how they can enhance their contribution to public health when providing health advice, particularly to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. The consortium, which is made up of Pharmacy HealthLink, The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, the Faculty of Public Health and the UK Public Health Association, will help to maximise the contribution of pharmacists, their staff and the premises in which they work.

The skills and experience of pharmacists are recognized as an under used resource. A multi-professional steering group is advising the Department of Health on the development of the pharmacy public health strategy. The group includes professional bodies, Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts. The first group of pharmacists completed training in March to allow them to prescribe medicines in certain circumstances. They will work in partnership with doctors, dentists and patients to implement Clinical Management Plans. This extension of the role into prescribing is likely to be most useful in dealing with long-term medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or coronary heart disease, or with long-term health needs, such as anti-coagulation.