Greater utilisation of pharmacy services could be instrumental in helping the NHS cope with the pressures it is expected to face during the coming winter.
This is according to the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), which has outlined the greater role that pharmacies are willing to take on as the health service struggles to meet demand during busy periods like winter.
PSNC chief executive Sue Sharpe told the Pharmaceutical Journal that any future plans for a longer-term, more sustainable approach to urgent and emergency care must necessarily include full integration of the network of community pharmacies, as these are a relatively underutilised resource at present.
The call comes in response to a recent report from NHS Providers warning that the health service is likely to struggle to cope with the winter months, with £350 million in funding needed this summer to tackle immediate problems, while longer-term strategies are applied to solve underlying structural and capacity pressures.
Ms Sharpe said: "A pharmacy respiratory support service could help prevent some of the 60,000 hospital admissions due to asthma and the 113,000 admissions due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease each year.
"The network of community pharmacies is ready, willing and able to implement some of the plans set out by NHS Providers; we hope that health leaders will take note and make full use of the sector."
Another example of how pharmacies can help to alleviate pressures on the NHS include pharmacist-led medicine reviews on discharge from hospital, which have been shown to help bring down rates of readmission, as well as services to assist people in managing long-term conditions, as these can prevent patients from having to be admitted to hospital in the first place.