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Health Matters: 'Forging closer links can aid treatment for mental health'


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Pharmacies have a role to play/
Pharmacies have a role to play/

THE pharmacy profession can play an important role in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of the nation and has the potential to do much more, writes Karen Macaskill.

This is the view highlighted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Scotland in their policy document published in October 2020 entitled Improving care of people with mental health conditions: how pharmacists can help.

Whether it is spotting early signs of mental health problems, managing long-term conditions, providing expert medicines advice or signposting to other forms of support, pharmacists are ideally placed to ensure people get the help they need.

With an estimated 1.6 million people visiting community pharmacies each day across the UK, community pharmacy can help people with long-term mental health conditions to improve or maintain their physical health by encouraging physical activity and providing support with smoking cessation and diet, as well as providing advice on how best to take medication and how to identify and manage side effects.

They can also play an important role in supporting adherence to treatment.

In addition to community pharmacists, there are growing numbers of pharmacists working directly with GPs in primary care who play a key role in medicines reviews. Many people are taking multiple medicines for physical and mental health problems and it is important to ensure the safe and effective use of all their medicines.

Karen Macaskill
Karen Macaskill

Equally important is reviewing people’s prescribed medicines regularly to ensure every medicine prescribed is necessary. When medication risks begin to outweigh the benefits for an individual, the pharmacists can work in partnership with people to agree a medication regime that is tailored to their needs and expectations.

The vast majority of people with anxiety and depression are treated in primary care. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has recognised that there is an urgent need to do more to identify when people with depression have recovered and treatment can be stopped or reduced. Pharmacists working in primary care can play an important role in this with support from specialist mental health pharmacists.

Our specialist mental health pharmacy team is based in New Craigs Hospital. We work as members of the multidisciplinary mental health teams, both within the hospital and in the community, providing specialist knowledge of mental health medicines. We help people to make informed choices about the medicines they take by providing clear information about the treatment options in a format that best suits the individual, listening to their preferences and concerns, helping them come to a decision about the best option for them. This can help to improve adherence and reduce hospital admissions in the longer term.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society recognises that the skills and expertise of specialist mental health pharmacists need to be used in a more integrated way and be accessible to GPs, practice-based pharmacists and community pharmacy.

In north Highland, we’re already forging closer links with our primary care colleagues and look forward to building on these. The aim is to ensure that when people require treatment with medication for their mental health, they receive optimum pharmaceutical care regardless of the care setting.

- Karen Macaskill is NHS Highland’s principal pharmacist.


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