Primary care providers call for greater use of community healthcare

National Community Hearing Association, Optical Confederation and Pharmacy Voice unite for political party conferences

The National Community Hearing Association (NCHA), Optical Confederation and Pharmacy Voice are calling for the NHS to make better use of community audiologists, opticians and pharmacy teams. The three organisations will be taking this message to the 2015 Labour and Conservative party conferences highlighting that primary care is far more than general practice.

One in six people in the UK are affected by hearing loss. Every day 100 people start to lose their sight and each year people make 438 million visits to pharmacies for treatment and advice on how to keep healthy. The organisations believe by making greater use of community audiologists’, opticians’ and pharmacists’ professional skills, services and capacity, more people would receive hearing and sight tests and easier access to treatment for minor ailments as well as advice on healthy living and medicines.

Mark Georgevic National Community Hearing Association Chair, said: “This is a landmark year for hearing care. Not only have the WHO, the Chief Medical Officer and NHS England prioritised hearing as a major public health challenge but the tools are now in place to help the NHS meet growing demand within available resources. Regulator Monitor has shown that the Government’s patient choice reforms, implemented in 2012  giving NHS patients greater access to local providers, have already led to higher standards at the same cost whilst the Department of Health and NHS England’s Action Plan points the way towards a much-needed National Commissioning Framework. In addition joint NCHA/BSHAA planning guidance provides practical advice for commissioners to deliver this change. Community audiologists are key to tackling the hearing challenges of our ageing population by helping people maintain their independence and reduce their risk of social isolation, depression and cognitive decline. It is time to realise these gains across the whole UK.”

Chris Hunt, Chairman of the Optical Confederation, said: “The Nation’s optometrists and opticians carry out over 20 million sight tests a year at convenient locations in the community. But they can do far more as part of the primary care service to meet growing demand and help close the NHS funding gap. Throughout the UK, community optical practices are providing services which go well beyond the sight test; utilising their clinical skills to deliver enhanced services, including monitoring serious conditions like glaucoma and treating urgent but minor eye conditions. The evidence shows that this works – patients like local services and pressure is taken off hospitals and GPs. Opportunity now exists to roll out these services nationwide to common standards, saving transaction costs, but NHS commissioning remains patchy and inconsistent. This must change. People deserve better and can have better now. We will be calling on politicians of all parties and in all roles to help bring this about.”

Claire Ward, Chair of Pharmacy Voice, said: “Community pharmacy has a vital role to play in ensuring a sustainable NHS for the future. It is the most accessible healthcare location and able to reach some of the most vulnerable in society. Qualified healthcare professionals with at least five years of training are available without the need for an appointment for expert advice on medicine and healthcare advice. However, there is great potential for community pharmacy to do more. At the party conferences we will be sharing examples of locally commissioned services that are delivering; whether by supporting healthy living, treating minor ailments or helping those with long term conditions. We will be calling on politicians of all parties to enable community pharmacy to do more to help tackle major public health issues such as obesity, smoking and alcohol and reduce the burden on GPs and A&E.”

The National Community Hearing Association (NCHA), Optical Confederation and Pharmacy Voice will be represented at the party conferences:

  • Labour party conference, 27-30 September, The Brighton Centre: Stand 16
  • Conservative party conference, 4-7 October, Manchester Central: Stand 73