Tobacco harm reduction and community pharmacy

I would think that the publication of NICE public health guidance 45 would deliver an early test for the public health function in local authorities and the community pharmacy sector. One in five community pharmacies in England are contracted to deliver stop smoking services and these contracts have recently passed to the local authority. I could suggest that this number might be higher, but it might be better to just add that an eye-watering 1.8million people visit a community pharmacy every day, offering an unequalled opportunity to deliver positive public health messages.

The guidance recognises the value of reducing the impact smoking of those that find it difficult to stop in one go, wish to continue using nicotine or want to reduce the amount they smoke. The guidance makes a number of recommendations and community pharmacy have a significant role to play whether they deliver full stop smoking services or are simply part of the wider team that can raise awareness, communicate with smokers, advise, treat or refer.

The challenge is thrown out to Community Pharmacy to raise the issues with public health commissioners in the local authority. And be clear as to how they can help support this important agenda.

The role of public health commissioners is, however explained in the guidance:

  • Extend investment in harm reduction approaches that supports and extends the reach and impact of existing stop smoking services
  • Develop referral and treatment pathways
  • Ensure existing service providers offer people harm reduction approaches in line with the guidance
  • Develop activity and outcome measures around harm reduction services
  • Ensure service specifications allow for the long term supply of licenced NRT
  • Ensure service providers have appropriate training

So this NICE guidance produces the opportunity for community pharmacy and public health commissioners to work together to reduce the harmful effects of smoking.


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