At a glance: A Vision for Pharmacy

The NHS document published last year is back in the news. Why? Health minister Rosie Winterton referred to it last week when she urged men to visit their local chemist. She wants pharmacies to be seen as valuable providers of advice.

Do men not go to chemists often enough?

Research shows that men are reluctant users of health services and tend to visit the doctor only when pain has become severe or an illness is too serious to ignore. But Winterton says: ‘Pharmacies have an advantage: people visit them when they are well, not just when they are sick.’

So how can PROs get involved?

PROs now have a timely peg on which to hang information for relevant products and treatments aimed at men. A public health campaign launched this week in association with the Men’s Health Forum carries the message ‘Pop down your local’.

What issues are we talking about?

Diet, physical activity and reducing obesity are the big ones. The Government wants to target the 50-year-old, 40-a-day man who wants to give up but needs help, for example. Pharmacists now offer smoking cessation courses as well as services like measuring blood pressure and body mass index.

But these issues affect everyone. Why aim at men in particular?

Men are more likely than women to die from a number of causes, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer.

Upbeat stuff.

The Government says men are also likely to spend 15 years of their lives suffering from a serious illness.

Surely there’s some cheer on the horizon?

Yes. There has been a ten per cent fall in premature deaths from cancer since 1995 and a 23 per cent drop in heart-related deaths between then and 2002. The Department of Health says that pharmacists will have a key part in continuing that trend as their role changes.

Changes more towards providing clinical services?

Exactly. A new contract for pharmacies, similar to the one for GPs, is due in October.

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