The Role of Community Pharmacy in Women’s Health :: C+D
At the end of last month, the government published its first-ever women’s health strategy for England.
It is a decision that finally recognizes that NHS services are not currently designed to meet the daily needs of women. It is committed to improving health outcomes for women and girls over the next 10 years, adopting a life-course approach, focusing on women’s health policy across the lifespan and to strengthen the representation of women’s voices in policy-making.
Read more: 12 SSPs for HRT products extended as supply issues continue
The National Pharmacy Association hailed the strategy. “As public health practitioners and main street clinicians, community pharmacists have the skills and expertise to address the growing inequalities that prevent women from accessing consistent and holistic care,” says the report.
Indeed, community pharmacists claim that they have been “bridging the gap” for women’s health for some time, providing advice and assistance, offering a listening ear and giving information on issues such as contraception and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) products.
HRT shortages drive women to pharmacies
Kiran Jones, a pharmacist at Oxford Online Pharmacy, part of the Frost Pharmacy Group, tells C+D that recent HRT shortages and the difficulty some patients are having getting an appointment with a GP has meant that a increasing number of women are going to their pharmacies for advice. .
But she stresses that pharmacists and general practitioners both have an important role to play in improving healthcare for women.
“We all have knowledge, strengths and weaknesses and it is up to all healthcare teams, including GPs and pharmacists, to work together to ultimately support the patient,” she says.
Listen: Podcast – How I help women take charge of their health
“Pharmacists and our teams are well placed to support the ongoing conversations that begin with a GP appointment. There are so many things that can be discussed in 10 minutes.
She adds: “It is also important that we know when to refer a woman to her GP. For example, we do not diagnose menopause or initiate HRT, this is generally not our competence.
“In my experience, much of the value we provide comes from answering questions about the ongoing management of menopausal symptoms – finding the right form (tablet, patch, gel, etc.) of HRT for the a patient’s lifestyle, answer questions about side effects, or advise on the latest treatment guidelines.
Emergency contraception and the pill
Nahim Khan is a community pharmacist in Warrington and works closely with local GPs.
In her experience of talking to women about their HRT, “the side effects and adverse effects of the medications aren’t really discussed enough.”
He tells C+D: “One thing where a pharmacist will be helpful is discussing the side effects and benefits of taking a medicine and this is where GPs and pharmacists can work together to support women. .”
Read more: Scottish Government mulls Community Pharmacy ‘women’s health’ service
For him, it’s a plus that more women ask their pharmacist for advice on HRT if they can’t get a GP appointment, because it means they’re likely to be armed with “not misinformation” once they manage to see their doctor. “It’s a good use of time for them,” he says.
But HRT isn’t the only area of women’s health where pharmacists can make their mark, he points out.
Recently, he has seen an increase in requests from women going on vacation asking for norethisterone, a drug to interrupt menstruation. Indeed, some pharmacies have a private service where they can dispense this medicine for a fee once the consultation is over.
Learn more: Lovima training room on the C+D community
He has also seen “quite a few women” seek emergency contraception, and points out that the progesterone-only pill can now be purchased after consultation with a pharmacist – without the need for a prescription.