NHS England: A Call to Action
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Joining up the Dots: NHS England's Community Pharmacy Call to Action and the Urgent & Emergency Care Review

Joining up the Dots: NHS England's Community Pharmacy Call to Action and the Urgent & Emergency Care Review

My name is Clare Howard, and I am the Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for NHS England. I work in the Medical Directorate in NHS England with the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, Dr Keith Ridge.

Right at the beginning of the Urgent and Emergency Care Review, it was recognised that Community Pharmacy could play a significant role in supporting patients to self-care as well as get more from their medicines and so avoid preventable admissions.

A key theme in the Review’s recent End of Phase 1 Report was the need to deliver care closer to home. The 11,000 or so community pharmacies in England are “closer to home” than many people realise:

•99% of the population can get to a pharmacy within 20 minutes by car

•96% by walking or using public transport

•There are an estimated 1.6 million visits a day in England of which 1.2 million are for health related reasons.

•Each person in England pays an average 14 visits per year per to a community pharmacy

The traditional role of community pharmacies is to support patients in the safe use of over-the-counter and prescription medicines. In recent years, this role has formally expanded to do much more: providing advice and treatment for common minor ailments, promoting healthier lifestyles, and supporting people with long-term health conditions:

•A total of 2.8 million Medicines Use Reviews (MUR) were conducted by community pharmacies in England in 2012-13

•92% of all community pharmacies are currently providing these services to patients. To do so they must have a private consultation area

•Many, but not all, areas of the country operate Minor Ailment Schemes, where pharmacists provide support, advice and medicines where necessary for patients with common minor ailments; and

•Many community pharmacies have long opening hours, which means they can, for example, provide a source of medical advice or treatment for some patients when their GP surgery is closed, potentially reducing the need for them to use out-of-hours GP services.

It is for these reasons that the Urgent and Emergency Care Review identified the pressing need to capitalise on the untapped potential, and convenience, that greater utilisation of the skills and expertise of the pharmacy workforce can offer. Last week, NHS England issued IMPROVING HEALTH AND PATIENT CARE THROUGH COMMUNITY PHARMACY– A CALL TO ACTION. This work will help us understand how services could be run to support patients to get more from their medicines and get more from their local community pharmacy. You can read more about it here:


I have also written a separate blog about why I think the Call to Action is so important:


I’d really encourage you to take a look, and post your comments on the NHS England website or here. We’re really keen to hear from you.

No one single body or organisation can deliver a new urgent and emergency care system in isolation. A successful change will require all players in the system to collaborate to deliver. That is why the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer and those of us that work with him are keen to support the Review’s Delivery Group so we can do our part.

We’re joining the dots, and pulling in the same direction, to help deliver the best care for people in a familiar setting that is as close to home as possible.

2 Replies

HealthUnlocked readers might also be interested in finding out further information on the role that Community Pharmacy is playing during the Winter. You can find our more here:



Thanks Clare. What you have said makes a great deal of common sense. The wide range of qualified advice that pharmacists can offer is not usually considered when someone has a health issue, and problems with GP access may result in escalation of the problem to a point where the individual may attend A&E. All this might be avoided if pharmacist resources were used more