Researchers at the University of Wolverhampton are piloting a number of innovative schemes to support the NHS call for upskilling pharmacists.
One of the projects will investigate the use of trained undergraduate students to boost the patient awareness of their conditions, while they wait for their prescriptions or are browsing in the shop.
Academics say increased awareness (also known as health literacy) has been shown to help people manage their own health better. Students also gain valuable experience in the workplace and have the chance to contribute back.
The students will be checking blood pressure and also providing advice about selection of over the counter medication. The aim for this project is to provide give them early experience in patient contact to support their development as clinical pharmacists.
Dr Hana Morrissey, Reader in Clinical Pharmacy and Professor Patrick Ball, Professor or Pharmacy Practice at the University, believe that the role of the community pharmacists in the USA and Australia has developed into something much more patient-facing and their hope is that these models could be successfully replicated in the UK.
Dr Morrissey said: "We are giving our students patient-facing experience aiming to produce a new generation of pharmacists who are work-ready with problem solving, critical thinking and clinical abilities that make them better equipped for roles such as independent prescribing.
"If patients are able to receive more effective healthcare advice at their local pharmacy this eases pressure on other health services and also makes it more of an accessible focal point within the community."
The two researchers are also working on number of projects which exploring innovations in community pharmacists support of patients in chronic disease management.
Dr Morrissey added: “People with chronic diseases have a better prognosis if you look after their physical and mental health. If you are looking at a patient holistically, not just at treating the presenting issue, there can be benefits.
The pharmacist can have a very positive role in this, providing support and identifying underlying mental health issues early. They can also provide lifestyle advice and refer problems to medical care before they become illnesses."
Professor Ball said: “This will not cure the illness but growing evidence shows it can improve their health outcomes, wellbeing and quality of life.”