The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) has recently published recommendations to increase the involvement of pharmacists in providing healthcare for patients with chronic illnesses. Currently there are more than 15 million people living with one or more chronic illnesses in England and this number is set to rise partly due to an ageing population but also due to unhealthy lifestyles and inadequate healthy living knowledge. This figure is predicted to rise to 18 million by 2025. The burden on caring for patients with chronic illnesses is putting its toll on the NHS (National Health Service) and subsequently funding spent on caring for chronic illnesses accounts for 70% of the total health and social budget of England. In addition, waiting times for GP (General practitioner) and hospital appointments are staggeringly high, often resulting in delays for patients who should be seen more urgently.
A Case for more pharmacy involvement..
What if more responsibility in caring for patients with chronic illnesses was given to pharmacists? Pharmacists are easily accessible to the general public and are usually the first port of call for patients wanting a quick resolution to a minor ailment or expert medication advice. If their skills can be utilised by including repeat prescribing and consultations for patients with chronic illnesses then they can reduce the workload of GP surgeries, prevent unnecessary admissions to hospitals and overall improve patient medication education. 50% of GP visits in England are due to patients suffering from chronic conditions such as asthma, vascular diseases and hypertension, may of these repeat visits are due to patients running out of their medications and requiring repeat medicines.
In addition, considering there was £15 billion spent on medications alone in 2015, optimal use of the expertise of Pharmacists’ knowledge can be fundamental to reducing this phenomenal cost. A report by NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) has reported that 30-50% of medications prescribed to patients suffering from chronic illnesses are not taken correctly. Unnecessary and incorrect medication usage, which sometimes can lead to unplanned hospital admissions all contribute to the increasing burden on the NHS. A study carried out by the School of pharmacy in York, concluded that £500 million can be generated if medications were used appropriately in five therapeutic areas, including; Asthma, diabetes and hypertension.
Aside from in a U.K health context, globally, the WHO states that chronic conditions, such as heart diseases, cancer, stroke and chronic respiratory diseases are the leading causes of mortality in the world. In 2014, 60% of all mortality in the world was due to chronic diseases which can often be prevented and the subsequent progression of many chronic diseases can be stalled by good patient education, improvement of effective use of current medications and healthy lifestyle initiatives.
All areas that pharmacists have been trained extensively and have the expertise.
We look forward to where these recommendations take the pharmacy community.
For a link to the report by the RPSGB, please see below.