The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has said the government’s new strategy on tackling obesity will have a better chance of succeeding if community pharmacies are able to play an integral role.
The strategy, released today, was greeted with a mixture of optimism and caution by the professional leadership body. RPS president Sandra Gidley took to Twitter to warn the health minister Jo Churchill that the government “will have missed a trick” if it fails to “include pharmacy in the solution".
The plan has several broad aims, including expanding weight management services through the NHS, bringing in legislation requiring restaurants, cafes and takeaways with over 250 employees to add calorie labels to food they sell and banning TV and online adverts for food high in fat, sugar and salt before 9pm.
English Pharmacy Board chair Claire Anderson warned pharmacy “should be at the centre of any plan” to prevent disease as well as weight management support and “reducing the risk of serious illness such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.”
“We welcome Public Health England’s renewed focus on supporting people to lead healthier lives and reduce their risk of serious illnesses, particularly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the evidence coming out,” she said.
“We know that prevention is better than cure and our profession continue this work when supporting the health of our patients. As Healthy Living Pharmacies, community pharmacies are best placed as accessible health centres, particularly for those in deprived areas and already play a huge role in reducing the health inequalities, supporting those groups at high risk of Covid-19.”
Ms Anderson said she wanted to see greater integration of health professions across the NHS to keep obesity levels under control, including “more social prescribing referrals and linking up primary care networks further with community pharmacies".
“It is becoming more obvious that A&E referrals and GP appointments can be treated elsewhere and pharmacies are well placed to ease pressures on other NHS services by supporting people with general wellbeing issues, such as obesity,” she said.
“We now need the backing from the government and NHS to build on the work our profession continues to do on a daily basis.”