16 May 2019
I, too, congratulate Alexander Stewart on securing this important debate and on giving a comprehensive and well-researched speech.
As we have heard, community pharmacies are a vital cog in Scotland’s NHS and increasingly act as the first point of access to the NHS for many patients with ailments that can be big, small, long-term, short-term, one-off or chronic.
I will flag up two initiatives that are not as well known as they should be: the 3 before GP campaign and the minor ailment scheme, which we have heard about from Joan McAlpine.
Both are excellent.
Pharmacists are best known for dispensing medicines and offering patient advice, but they are now taking on more clinical roles including managing and monitoring long-term conditions such as asthma and diabetes and conducting medicine reviews.
They also help people to give up smoking, provide drug misuse services and advise on sexual health matters. Like other members, I express my thanks and gratitude to community pharmacists for all their tireless hard work.
I, too, have recently visited community pharmacies.
A couple of Fridays ago, I visited the Lochardil pharmacy in Inverness, and, a couple of months ago, I went to KJ Macdonald’s excellent pharmacy on Cromwell Street in Stornoway—it was a beautiful day, Presiding Officer.
From the excellent briefing that I received from Community Pharmacy Scotland, I learned that community pharmacies are the most accessible primary care providers.
As we have heard from the Conservative front bench, there are 1,257 pharmacies all over Scotland and there is a higher concentration of pharmacies in disadvantaged and highly populated areas.
As in all areas of the NHS, staffing is an issue at the moment—pharmacies are no different, given the challenges of recruitment and retention.
Another pressure that pharmacists face relates to the lack of sharing of patient records. Not only do pharmacists not have access to patient records from GPs, but records that are held by pharmacists are not shared with other pharmacies or GPs.
Where is the joined-up thinking?
Perhaps the minister could concentrate on that issue in his winding-up speech. Working in silos could put patients at risk and prevent pharmacists from making informed decisions.
NHS Highland, which is one of the health boards in my region, has been developing innovative pharmacy services to deliver high-quality pharmaceutical care in more rural settings.
From reviewing patient medicines in care homes via telehealth link to providing medication reviews in dispensing practices, pharmacists play a vital role in the NHS Highland team.
Making medical services more accessible, alleviating the pressure on hard-pressed GPs and A and E departments, and offering advice and medication are all things that our community pharmacies can help with if we give them the support that they need.
In closing—unusually, I have kept to time—I will quote, for the second day in a row, from the founder of the NHS, Nye Bevan, who said:
“No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.”