In Northern Ireland, around 123,000 people visit a pharmacy every day, making community pharmacies the most visited among all the health services available.
With this in mind, the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) and the Public Health Agency (PHA) have introduced a new initiative called Health+Pharmacy. Pharmacies with the Health+Pharmacy accreditation will work with their local communities to offer advice and services on improving health and wellbeing. This can take place within and outside the pharmacy, for example in local schools or with community groups, to offer advice on issues such as obesity and better nutrition or pointing those in need to the organisations or local health services best placed to help them.
Launching the initiative today at Randalstown Pharmacies, Health Minister Simon Hamilton said: “Community pharmacies are to be commended for the key role they play in promoting public health, providing a wide range of services within local communities. This is very much in line with the wider transformational changes in the health service, designed to bring care closer to home.
“A growing and ageing population, along with an increasing prevalence of chronic illness and unhealthy lifestyles, is creating an unprecedented burden on our health services. We cannot afford to stand still and must continue to look for opportunities presented by new models of care, such as Health+Pharmacy, that will support people to manage their own health.
“It is encouraging to see that the Health+Pharmacy initiative trains staff, including non-pharmacists, to be active health promoters. I understand nine pharmacies across NI have successfully been accredited with the Health+Pharmacy award so far, recognising their role as a very valued resource in their local communities.”
To be awarded Health+Pharmacy status, the pharmacy will have demonstrated that it meets 16 separate quality standards related to public health. Pharmacies accredited by the scheme will display a certificate and sticker and have a dedicated Health and Wellbeing adviser in the pharmacy.
Mrs Deirdre Quinn, Pharmaceutical Services Lead at the HSCB, described the vision for the service. She said: “Over the next couple of years it is envisaged that many more community pharmacies will work towards achieving Health+Pharmacy status. The public will recognise a Health+Pharmacy as somewhere they will receive a consistently high quality of advice and service from trained staff about their health needs.”
Also welcoming the initiative was Mary Black, Assistant Director, Health Improvement with the PHA, who said: “Community pharmacy provides a springboard for supporting public health goals, working at the heart of the communities they serve. These programmes are about reducing health inequalities by identifying issues early, making sure people get the information and support that they need, and preventing long-term health problems developing. Health+Pharmacies will have a key role on the front line of this work to improve people’s health and wellbeing.”