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How would you describe your local community pharmacy? For most, their pharmacy is a place to pick up prescriptions or to purchase medicines for minor ailments. But a community pharmacy isn’t just there to treat people when they are sick – pharmacies also offer services and advice to help people stay healthy and in doing so, can help to tackle local health inequalities and address local public health challenges

NHS Portsmouth, Portsmouth City Council and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Pharmaceutical Committee started work on a concept that would change people’s mindset about their local community pharmacy and help people to lead healthier lives. The aim was to create Healthy Living Pharmacies which rather than focusing on supply would be consistently commissioned to provide high quality NHS services such as weight management, stop smoking, emergency contraception and NHS Health Checks. It was by no coincidence discussions about HLPs started in Portsmouth – health in Portsmouth is generally poor with higher than average smoking, alcohol use and obesity.

In 2010, the first HLP was born and early evaluation results were promising; a person walking into a HLP in Portsmouth being twice as likely to set a quit date and stop smoking compared to a person walking into a non-HLP. At visit to Portsmouth HLPs in late 2010, Lord Howe was impressed and asked a very valid question – can these outcomes be replicated outside of Portsmouth?

To help to push the concept forward, the Healthy Living Pharmacy Pathfinder Support Group was formed, made up of representatives from the Company Chemists' Association, Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education, Department of Health, National Pharmacy Association, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. To initiate roll-out, last year, 20 areas, representing 30 PCTs were selected to become HLP pathfinders and a challenging goal was set – to have at least 100 pharmacies to be accredited by HLPs by the end of March 2012.

To qualify to become HLP, pharmacies must have staff trained as health champions and the premises need to provide a range of quality NHS services as well as having suitable facilities. In a HLP, counter staff are given a prominent role to help people to change their lifestyles and make every contact count. To help them to do this, pharmacy staff receive training accredited by the Royal Society for Public Health to skill them up as Health Champions (also known as Healthy Living Champions).

Fast forward two years on since the first HLP in Portsmouth and there are now well  over 200 HLPs accredited across 16 HLP Primary Care Trust areas in England, with a number of additional areas outside the pathfinders also realising the benefits and pressing forward with the concept. HLPs are very much an inspiration and a template for pharmacy public health development and organisational development. They are making a real difference to the health and wellbeing of people in the local area by consistently delivering a range of high-quality public health services such as stopping smoking, weight loss, alcohol interventions, the treatment of minor ailments, contraception and sexual health and advice on medicines.

Passing the 100th Healthy Living Pharmacy is a great achievement but we now need to take the significant success forward onto the HLP workstream of the Pharmacy and Public Health Forum to support on-going roll-out. Evaluation of the Pathfinder sites is now ongoing with a report expected later in 2012. The next step is to see HLPs recognised and rewarded by commissioners. When you think of where the project started in Portsmouth, to where it is at now across the country, there is no stopping HLPs.

Written by Deborah Evans
Wednesday, 09 May 2012 9:09

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