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Don Lavoie is alcohol programme manager at Public Health England and Gul Root is lead pharmacist, Health and Wellbeing Directorate, Public Health England
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online-adviceOctober 8 2014

A report looking at how patients self-manage long term conditions says community pharmacy is being “significantly under-used”. People are more likely to use an internet search engine than visit a pharmacy when they have a health query.

Written by the influential think-tank, the Institute of Public Policy Research, the report argues that more should be done to recognise and support the huge amount of self-management done by people with long-term conditions and their carers.

The ‘Patients in Control’ report also recommends that more be done to enable people to work in partnership with healthcare providers to agree the services that fit their needs.

IPPR’s online survey collected responses from 2,623 people who use the HealthUnlocked online social network and who have one or more ongoing mental or physical health conditions.

While almost two-thirds of respondents (63%) were satisfied with the day-to-day management of their conditions, over three-quarters (77%) said that more of their healthcare could and should be managed independently at home but a lack of support and information was holding them back from doing so.

“When asked which from a list of options would be most useful in managing day-to-day care, a named contact-person to handle queries about any aspect of their care was by far the most popular response (75%),” says the IPPR.

“57% thought that having a named contact for telephone support and advice would reduce the number of times they saw their GP, went to hospital or used accident and emergency (A&E) services. The majority of respondents (70%) also wanted better access to their medical records, and significant numbers said that coaching and support would be useful (61% and 58% respectively).”

However, when asked about how often respondents look for information about health outside the medical team, around 45% said they never go to a pharmacy for advice, with almost another 30% saying they rarely do; less than 10% of people said they often or very often go to a pharmacy for advice.

IPPR says: “It is important to note that primary care professionals, other than GPs, are potentially being under-used as sources of front-line advice. For example, pharmacists are easily accessible in the community (and some people may be more comfortable speaking to a pharmacist than a GP), yet our survey showed that nearly half of respondents did not seek advice from pharmacists. It is therefore likely that pharmacists are being significantly under-used as community resources.”

Alastair Buxton, Head of NHS Services at PSNC, welcomed the IPPR’s “recognition of the convenience and accessibility of community pharmacies; something which PSNC and LPCs are always keen to emphasise to commissioners.”

He continued: “The report also confirms what we already know about patients’ desire to be able to manage their conditions themselves and, as set out in PSNC’s Vision, community pharmacies are ideally positioned to support patients in doing this. For example, the further development of medicines optimisation services could help to keep patients living independently by reducing the risk of complications with their medicines and conditions.”

Links:

IPPR statement

IPPR report ‘Patients in Control - why people with long-term conditions must be empowered’

PSNC statement

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