Speech: 31 October 2011, Lord Howe, Ask Your Pharmacist Week

Lord Howe speaks at the 2011 Ask Your Pharmacist Week.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon Earl Howe

Thank you Kevin [Barron] for inviting me here today. 

I am very pleased to be here supporting the 2011 Ask Your Pharmacist Week. 

This year’s theme, that pharmacies offer more than just medicines, contains a message from which almost everyone could benefit.

I imagine most people know where their local pharmacy is. Many go there on a regular basis, whether for prescriptions or advice. But I suspect few among them are fully aware of the breadth of services offered by those very same pharmacies, right on their doorsteps.

Today’s pharmacies are about much more than medicine. 

Gone are the days of pharmacies manufacturing medicines themselves and simply dispensing them.

Instead, they are rightly recognised as one of the most visible and accessible parts of the healthcare system and, as such, pharmacists and their teams are making a real difference in helping people look after their own health and wellbeing.

Today, when you walk into a pharmacy on the high street, in your local community or health centre and in your local supermarket, you will see a huge range of services provided. Services like;

• Stop smoking services;

• Blood testing, blood pressure monitoring and anticoagulation services to help people manage long-term conditions.

• Medicine reviews to help people get the most from their medicines.

• And sometimes, the first point of call for advice on treating minor illnesses and injuries.

Pharmacists and their teams can also play a major role in addressing the main challenges faced by the health and care system - supporting our ageing population, and preventing health problems caused by smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise.

The sheer breadth of their contact with patients is one of the reasons pharmacists are so central our plans to modernise the NHS - whether that’s improving quality and integration, making care more affordable or empowering the public to improve their own health and wellbeing.

Medicines legislation

And to support pharmacy in a modernised NHS we need a modern legal framework. 

I am very pleased that the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency launched its consultation on consolidating UK medicines legislation last week. It aims to simplify medicines legislation, much of which affects pharmacists, and provide a platform for further de-regulation. I would encourage you to make your views known.

Service developments

These reforms are all part of making sure we do whatever is needed to allow pharmacists and their teams to deliver quality services.

Today sees the launch of our consultation on proposals to reform the NHS market entry system.

They are part of our drive to make sure high quality pharmaceutical services are commissioned everywhere, for the benefit of patients, the NHS and taxpayers. I am very grateful to everyone involved in this important task for their hard work and I very much look forward to hearing the response.

I strongly believe the new proposals will help pharmacists who are working hard to make sure patients are getting the most from their medicines, getting the best value and the best end results.

Wherever you look, pharmacists are coming up with new and impressive ways of achieving that.

In some parts of the country, Healthy Living Pharmacies are pro-actively supporting behaviour change to improve health and well-being in their local communities.

We want to develop that sort of contribution, taking into account the priorities of public health both in Government and local communities.  The new Pharmacy and Public Health Forum, which is being chaired by Professor Richard Parish of the Royal Society for Public Health, is taking the lead on this and bringing together pharmacy and public health professionals with other interests. 

And of course, we now have pharmacies delivering the New Medicine Service and targeted medicines use reviews.

These are exciting new developments and I am confident the benefits will be seen by patients.

New Medicine Service

I would like to say a little bit more about the pharmacy-led New Medicine Service, which has been available in some pharmacies since the start of this month.

The new service is designed to help patients who are prescribed a new medicine for a long term condition.  The pharmacist works with the patient to help them better understand their condition and treatment, better manage their condition, and make healthy lifestyle choices.

On top of that, of course, it will help reduce the number of avoidable admissions to hospital. No-one wants to go to hospital, so by keeping people with a long term condition out, we can make a big difference to their quality of life.

I am very grateful to NHS Employers and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee for the hard work they put into developing the new service. 

It is still early days. But anecdotal evidence from the first interventions suggests both patients and pharmacists welcome the opportunity to talk about their medicines.

To give a quick example, I heard of a patient who was reluctant to take her new medicine because of the severity of the side effects she had experienced previously with another medicine.  Her pharmacist was able to reassure her that the new medicine was completely different and she shouldn’t have any side effects.  A week later, she was taking her medicine with no side effects at all.


The Government believes that pharmacy is in a good position to continue to make a major contribution in the modernised NHS and public health system. 

I think you will all agree that we need to look after ourselves more. The further professionalisation of community pharmacy will change how the public sees pharmacy and I can only see them trusting pharmacists and their teams even more..

I want to see a future where pharmacists and patients spend much more time talking.

That two-way dialogue - where patients talk about their concerns and experiences, and pharmacists respond with advice and alternatives - is vital for getting the best out of medicines. So perhaps next year, I’ll be here talking about the first “tell your pharmacist” week!

I am sure that the events planned for Ask Your Pharmacist Week will make many more people aware of the fantastic resources available to them in their local area.

Thank you and enjoy the rest of today’s event.

Published 8 November 2011