Local men with long-term health conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, angina, rheumatoid arthritis and those who have suffered heart attacks are being encouraged to visit their local pharmacy for practical help and advice as part of national health campaign aimed at getting men to take better care of themselves.
The Men’s Health Week initiative (June 11–17 2007) is underlining the fact that sometimes patients (and their carers) do not know how to approach the right health service to manage their specific condition and often don’t want to “bother the doctor”. Men are much more unlikely to visit a doctor or engage with other health services than women and health promotion campaigns often fail to take account of the need for “gender-sensitivity” in reaching male audiences.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain – which represents 45,000 pharmacists in Great Britain – is emphasising the fact that community pharmacists are ideally placed to help men with long-term conditions because:
- The services are free and no appointment is needed – most men don’t mind going to the pharmacy, because they don’t need an appointment.
- Well-located – pharmacies are accessible and located on most high streets.
- Convenient – patients who do not attend GP or nurse clinics still collect prescriptions from their pharmacy, including those whose condition is less well controlled or might become uncontrolled. In addition, pharmacies offer services when local surgeries are closed, including Saturdays and Sundays.
- Pharmacists are experts in medicines – pharmacists already have great expertise in medicines management, and, in a recent survey, 65% expressed an interest in specialising in the management of long-term conditions.
- Privacy – most pharmacies now have confidential consultation areas, so men can discuss any personal health concerns alone with the pharmacist without being overheard.
Community pharmacists can offer a great deal of specific help to men with long term conditions including:
- Repeat prescriptions – this removes the need for a patient to reorder their prescription from the GP every month.
- Face-to-face, non judgmental advice on general health and exercise.
- Practical help with stopping smoking.
- Dietary advice and nutritional information (including vitamins advice).
- Help with sexual health.
- Practical advice and help when men encounter mental health issues.
- Help with minor sports injuries like cuts and bruises, sprains and strains.
- An increasing number of pharmacies offer healthcare advice in electronic form using special machines, which can also undertake a range of diagnostic tests including blood pressure, diabetes, weight and cholesterol checks and heart checks.
A spokesperson for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain says: “It is important that men know they can visit their local pharmacy at any time for health advice and help, especially when they have a diagnosed long-term medical condition or think they may be suffering from one and need it checking out. Pharmacies are convenient and accessible and you don’t need an appointment whilst pharmacists are ideally placed to offer timely and non-judgmental advice on ways to help men adjust their lifestyles so that they can be healthier and more active despite their specific long-term condition.
“Already, we are starting to see pharmacists prescribing on the NHS, and running clinics either in the pharmacy or in the GP’s surgery. All the medical professions such as doctors, nurses and pharmacists, are working in partnership to deliver better care for patients with long-term conditions and this is set to continue.”