Professor Maggie Rae, President of the Faculty of Public Health, was the keynote presenter at a NPA centenary event in August. Here is some of what she had to say:
Maggie Ray on community pharmacy
Professor Rae declared herself to be a “big fan“ of community pharmacy, pointing to evidence of pharmacies’ effectiveness in alcohol reduction, weight management and smoking cessation, amongst other interventions.
Anonymity, flexibility and an informal environment combine to create pharmacies’ unique offering within public health.
Maggie Rae on health inequalities
Access to pharmacies is greatest in areas with high levels of deprivation, so “invest in community pharmacies and you will help reduce health inequalities.”
Community pharmacy should press for a more substantial role in the NHS Health Check programme, especially in deprived areas.
The health check programme will continue to be commissioned and she says “we need to make a targeted approach to the more deprived areas”.
“Given their accessibility in these areas, this provides a great opportunity for more commissioning of health checks to go to community pharmacies.”
The aftermath of the pandemic in this country – noting that inequalities have widened - presents a unique moment for pushing forward an agenda of health equality.
Maggie Rae on climate change
“The biggest public health challenge we face is climate change and environmental decay.” There’s a role for pharmacists in assessing medicines (such as inhalers) for their ecological impact. The location of pharmacies within walking distance of most people also has a beneficial impact on cutting emissions from transport.
Maggie Rae on the pandemic
Community pharmacies really came into their own with covid vaccinations. “They’ve tackled vaccine equity and improved uptake.” Says Professor Rae. Community pharmacy’s contribution during the pandemic has begun to open doors to conversations with the NHS and public health. Those doors were not really open 18 months ago.
She says: “I was one of the people who spoke out early on who said ‘why are we not using community pharmacies?’ It took a little while for the government and NHS to recognise that we should investing in them and community pharmacies have shown they’re more than willing to get involved. We need to build on that success given what a fantastic service they’ve done.”
There have been 16 pandemics since 1966. It’s not a question of if, but when, the next one strikes.
“One big lesson from the Covid-19 pandemic is that local services should never again be bypassed as solutions.” Centralised planning and delivery meant that GPs and community pharmacies were not used to their full potential in the early stages of the pandemic.
Maggie Rae on local systems
The NPA is a “strong body”, which makes a “big impact on the system”.
However pharmacy needs to build stronger relationships at local level, including within ICSs where there will be a single professional lead for pharmacy (developing local medicines strategy). Because of their focus on place-based planning, ICS represents a significant opportunity for community pharmacy. They will have monies for catching up on the health care deficit caused by the pandemic.