Now or Never: better care for people with long-term conditions

Simon O'Neill

by Simon O’Neill, Director of Health Intelligence and Professional Liaison at Diabetes UK

Diabetes UK represents the 3 million people in the UK diagnosed with diabetes. The vast majority of us have to use medicines every day, so getting the most out of our pharmacists is vitally important.

We really welcome the findings of Now or Never: Shaping pharmacy for the future, the report of the independent Commission into future models of care through pharmacy, established by the RPS earlier this year.   The report can make a real difference to people living with long-term conditions, not only directly through better access to medication, but also more generically by enabling pharmacists to become more active members of the multi-disciplinary team – to make them care givers rather than just medicine givers.

People with diabetes on average see their diabetes team in clinic for about 3 hours a year. That leaves them on their own to manage their diabetes for 8,757 hours a year. Enabling the pharmacist to become a more integrated part of that team could really help all those living with long-term conditions – having someone near at hand to give them information and support .

Now or Never does raise important challenges for the profession. Currently the pharmacist is often seen as simply a shop-keeper on the high street. Pharmacy will need to work hard to change that image so that the pharmacist comes to be seen as an integral part of the health care team – and working with the Third Sector, who are in touch regularly with many of the people living with long term conditions, is one-way that the profession could start to reach out and change attitudes.

There is also the challenge about the integrated care record. This is so desperately needed in long-term condition care, to help prevent the duplication, waste, and missed opportunities in the often complex care of those living with multiple medical problems – but without pharmacy being involved in this it will be hard for them to become players in the wider multidisciplinary healthcare team.

Within the new NHS in England there are real opportunities for pharmacy to bid for commissioned funding to deliver services in the community – often at more convenient times and places than other elements of the NHS. I truly hope that the profession rises to that challenge – as it could greatly help many people living with long-term conditions.

I hope that the recommendations of the report lead to real improvements in the delivery of care for patients, using the skills of pharmacists more effectively across the NHS. At a time of great change, this is a fantastic opportunity to ensure pharmacy is really embedded into a much wider range of services, working much more closely with other health professionals and really improving the lives of many people living with long term conditions. The challenge now is for the profession to make that happen – and if there is anything patient organisations like Diabetes UK can do to help, do call on us for our support.