The important role of pharmacy in reducing NHS waiting times has been recognised in a report published by the Senedd’s Health and Social Care Committee.
The report Waiting Well? The impact of the waiting times backlog on people in Wales, is a result of an inquiry into the impact of waiting times backlog on people who are waiting for diagnosis or treatment which commenced in November 2021. Providing both written and oral evidence to the committee, the inquiry provided us with the opportunity to outline where pharmacy could support the complex management of demand and NHS waiting times which have been impacted upon by the pandemic.
The report highlights the opportunities that pharmacy teams have to support patients with the management of their health conditions as well as self-care in general. It outlines that the pharmacy team already plays a key role in providing relevant health and wellbeing information as well as signposting people to relevant support services, such as voluntary sector services in the local community.
Our work with Community Pharmacy Wales and Carers Trust in Wales to create materials to support pharmacists to understand the needs of carers and how best to support them was also referenced in the report. The role of pharmacists in supporting carers to understand more about the medicines taken by those they care for is just one positive step in helping those people who are affected by long waiting times.
Recommendations in the report call on the Minister for Health and Social Services to consider how community pharmacy teams can refer on to other health services. It is also recommended that further promotion of pharmacy services is considered across Wales to help direct patients and the public in accessing the right service at the right time.
Commenting on the report, Director for RPS Wales, Elen Jones said:
“I am pleased that this report has taken on board the issues we presented to the Health Committee in highlighting where pharmacy can play an important role in contributing to the enormous effort to support patients waiting for NHS care.
"Managing NHS waiting times is a significant issue that, as a result of the pandemic, will inevitably consume significant health and social care resources for a number of years. The continued and tireless dedication to patient care from the pharmacy team will undoubtedly contribute to this work. Giving evidence to the inquiry, I emphasised to the committee that an already over-stretched pharmacy workforce cannot simply be asked to do more. Instead, improved collaboration with other health professionals as part of multidisciplinary approaches will be critical.
"I strongly believe that we will need to think differently about how professional skillsets are used in addressing the demands on services and crucially in supporting the patients who face the real daily challenge of waiting for treatment.
"I look forward to the Health Minister’s response to this report and offering further support in addressing this vitally important aspect of pandemic recovery."
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