Report Calls For More Digital & Remote Access To Pharmacies

Feb 29, 2024

A new report titled ‘How to make sure patients get faster, more equitable access to innovative treatments’ has recommended that patients are given better remote and digital access to pharmacies. The measure was one of several put forward to ensure that patients in the UK get fast and fair access to new medicines. 

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) reports that UK government and NHS leaders should take a more active and joined-up approach to widen and level up access to the latest medical advancements. 

Currently, certain groups may be excluded from fair access to new medicines and even healthcare treatments in general. This may be because they live in a remote geographical area with poor medical and pharmaceutical service provision and inadequate public transport.

It may also be because they are housebound or find travelling outside the home challenging due to age, disability, illness, or a mental health condition. Some patients may find the costs of travelling to medical appointments or collecting prescriptions prohibitive. 

The report identifies key areas to focus on locally, including making better use of digital technologies and remote home-based treatment options alongside in-person care. It also calls for the treatment plans to make use of all health professionals, including pharmacists and specialist nurses, rather than just focusing on doctors. 

Many in-person pharmacies already have a parallel online pharmacy service, which offers patients the convenience of being able to manage their repeat prescriptions remotely. The website may also offer online consultations and be a source of information and advice about common ailments, and recommend treatments. 

Ben Lucas, ABPI Board member and Managing Director, MSD in the UK and Ireland. Commented: “This report reminds us and policymakers of the need to put the patient voice first in everything we do.”

He added: “We should never lose sight of the fact that positive or negative decisions on medicines have a huge impact on people and their families. It’s good to have that reinforced with the examples the Patient Advisory Council has laid out.”

“I hope their insights are a constructive contribution to initiatives to tackle health inequalities and improve standards of care for everyone.”

Tom Nutt, CEO of Meningitis Now, said: “When the system gets it right, fast access to proven treatments transforms people’s lives. Sadly, all too often, the system gets it wrong, to the detriment of people and their families.”

“With this report, we want to demonstrate what not to do, as well as best practice examples that could help national and local NHS and government leaders tackle the challenges of equity, uptake, and health inequalities more widely.”

The report also recommends that the NHS should take a holistic view of patient need, and avoid unnecessary switching between primary and secondary care. The authors point out that such approaches will improve health outcomes for groups where it is most needed, such as those from lower socio-economic backgrounds in the north of England. 

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