It’s time to make the most of pharmacy in mental health

By Sandra Gidley, Chair of RPS England

People with a serious mental illness die 15-20 years earlier than on average.

They are three times as likely to lose all their teeth.

More than 16 million people in England are diagnosed with a long-term physical health condition, and more than five million of them will experience a mental health problem.

These are just some of the shocking figures that underline just how much further we have to go on the issue of mental health and the reason I was delighted to join with members, patient groups and the other health professions to mark the launch of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s new campaign on mental health in Parliament last week.

There was a clear recognition from all of the speakers of the pharmacy profession’s potential to do more to support people with mental health problems.

The Minister for Mental Health and Inequalities, Jackie Doyle-Price MP, told the audience that she agreed that pharmacy is well-placed to support people with mental health problems, and that pharmacy is often more readily accessible to those who are society’s most vulnerable.

Paula Sherriff MP, Labour’s Shadow Mental Health Minister, hosted the room and we appreciated her warm welcome to all the guests, and for her continued and passionate support for the NHS and the pharmacy profession.

Peter Pratt, Chief Pharmacist in Sheffield and Head of Medicines Strategy for Mental Health & Learning Disability at NHS England, spoke with his trademark passion and enthusiasm about where pharmacists can make a real difference to people’s lives. He has been a fantastic champion for the profession on mental health and we look forward to working with him further in the coming year and beyond.

Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Mind, said that primary care services are often a first port of call for people with mental health problems, and called for pharmacy to play a critical part in the next stage of Mental Health Five Year Forward View.

We heard a clear challenge around ensuring people with mental health problems get the support and care they deserve.

And the ongoing need to close the gap between physical and mental health.

So it was fantastic to see such support for pharmacy across the political parties and everyone’s enthusiasm for the RPS focusing on mental health.

Our new report, No health without mental health: How can pharmacy support people with mental health problems?, explores some of these issues in more detail, not only around supporting people with their medicines, but also around looking after their general health and wellbeing.

In the face of growing demand, it is crucial that the Government and the NHS make the most of the health and care workforce to support patient care.

Mental health should be no exception.

This discussion at the roundtable in May showed that there is a real opportunity and appetite for the pharmacy profession to do more.

But we know this isn’t going to happen overnight and will require an ongoing dialogue, so we hope to continue working with our members and the pharmacy profession, the NHS, patient groups and the other professional bodies to take this agenda forwards and help drive better care for mental health.

If you want to get involved or if you want to share examples of where pharmacy teams are already making a difference to people’s lives on mental health, you can contact the team at campaigns@rpharms.com.

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