Pharmacists can play a major role in mental health but they more so often lack confidence in this area. Early experience and training in this field could potentially bring the confidence. Approximately one in every four people in the UK suffers from a mental health problem. They can be categorized under anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorders.
For the coming years, mental health will be a more concerned agenda of UK government and the NHS. Efforts are being made to invest more in giving better services to such patients. In 2016, NHS published a ‘Five year forward view for mental health’ with a goal to see around one million patients being treated with mental health services by 2021. The document mentions that pharmacists can work differently to support the growth of new mental health services.
The role of specialist mental health pharmacists can go much beyond the community pharmacists to use their knowledge and optimize treatments for individuals seeking mental health facilities. “Specialist mental health pharmacists can, and should, be using their skills and expertise to individualize treatments for best outcomes for service users,” says Peter Pratt, NHS Improvement head of mental health and learning disability medicine.
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In a new scheme by North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT), pharmacists are trained as ‘health coaches’ who take time to get a picture of their patient’s health. These coaches are concerned with their patient’s physical health, social circumstances, and state of their mental health as well as medicine intake. The pharmacists create a written care plan afterward. The patients can decide what they would like to prioritize on. This scheme has changed the views of the pharmacists involved. Their thinking revolving around mental health has changed for the better.
College of Mental Health Pharmacy (CMHP) is also starting to work with clinical commissioning groups and primary care, including community pharmacists, to support people in the community to up their mental health knowledge and their confidence in working with people living with mental illness.
Pharmacists are about to improve their skills
A lot of positive work is going on in mental health pharmacy, but still, pharmacists lack confidence in this field. David Branford is a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Pharmacy Board. He highlights that despite mental health being taught during the pharmacy undergraduate degree and preregistration training, and the wealth of learning material available, if you ask newly-qualified pharmacists whether they are confident talking to someone with depression, universally, they say no. According to him, they lack hands-on training.
CMHP provides educational courses for both those new to mental health and those with more of a specialist interest. Support is also available via the CMHP’s email groups, which put pharmacists in touch with several hundred other mental health professionals across the world giving pharmacists a peer support network right at their fingertips. It is also working on to get support and education to pharmacists at the beginning of their careers and highlight that mental health is a specialty that exists for pharmacists.
If mental health support is given right at the primary stage, then the chances of crisis can be avoided, which is good for families, individuals, communities and the wider health and social care system. Now it’s time to make the most of the pharmacy in mental health.