A new report from the OECD and European Commission includes calls to strengthen health systems throughout Europe by developing the role of primary care services and expanding the role of community pharmacists. The foreword to Health at a Glance: Europe 2016 argues that a “greater focus on primary care can help to promote more integrated and patient-centred care”. 

The report highlights that while people across Europe are living for longer, they are not necessarily healthier – social benefit spending on those living with ill health is higher than on unemployment. Despite this, EU member states only spend an average of three per cent of health budgets on public health and prevention measures, areas where many claim pharmacy can make a significant impact.

The Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union (PGEU) has welcomed the report. PGEU Secretary General Jurate Svarcaite said: “Pharmacies have a crucial role to reduce inequalities in access and quality of healthcare, as well as the number of avoidable emergency department visits and hospitalisations across EU countries. The network of 160,000 community pharmacies in Europe provides a unique opportunity to improve access to disease prevention programmes, health screening and early interventions for all citizens, including those with the least means.

“We are particularly pleased that the OECD/EC report recognises that expanding the role of community pharmacists is an important policy lever that European countries could pursue to provide both wider preventive healthcare and better management of long-term conditions. A strong body of evidence shows that enhancing the role of community pharmacists in primary care systems brings significant improvements in disease prevention and quality of services.

“For example, in an increasing number of European countries community pharmacists already provide patient-focused pharmacy services such as medication use reviews, health checks, chronic disease management systems, vaccination etc.”

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