Addressing Mental Health Inequalities: The Role of Pharmacy Professionals


Substance misuse is linked with various mental health conditions arising from a complex interplay of biological, psychological, and social factors. It is crucial for NHS pharmacy professionals to understand this relationship for effective prevention, intervention, and treatment strategies. A member of GHP council has reached out to pharmacy technician Katherine Watkinson who is the Head of Medicines optimisation and pharmacy service at Turning Point to explore access to appropriate mental health care and support for individuals with substance misuse disorders.

One significant initiative is the “Community pharmacy: delivering substance misuse services” from OHID in collaboration with the College of Mental Health Pharmacy (CMHP). These guidelines helped formalise service level agreements in community pharmacies to deliver services such as supervised consumption, needle and syringe programs, and naloxone provision. This can effectively engage patients in harm reduction strategies and support individuals in their journey towards recovery.

Initiatives like self-administration policies implemented in supported residential accommodation can empower individuals with mental health challenges. Drawing from materials developed by SPS for self-administration in hospital settings, it can promote autonomy and independence in medication management. This staged approach empowers individuals who have historically lacked access to such opportunities.

Enhancing patient accessibility and comprehension of medication-related information is another key aspect in addressing mental health inequalities. Using the Medicines: a Patient Profile Summary (MAPPS) system for disseminating medicines leaflets and information in easy-to-read formats and multilingual options ensures individuals receive information tailored to their needs. Pharmacy professionals at Turning Point have worked with the service user council to refine the language used and ensure accessibility of consent forms to promote transparency which fosters trust between service providers and users. Training individuals in peer-to-peer naloxone supply can also prevent overdoses and save lives, reducing the burden on emergency services – these situations often impact significantly on the mental health of the family and friends of the affected individuals.

This personalised approach not only improves medication adherence, but also empowers individuals to make informed decisions about their treatment whilst mitigating the impact of systemic inequalities. NHS pharmacy professionals can play a vital role in addressing mental health inequalities in these marginalised groups often from lower socioeconomic backgrounds facing stressors and barriers in seeking help or accessing appropriate care.

Working in any healthcare environment can be stressful. Unite offers Mental Health Awareness training for accredited representatives interested in understanding more and supporting others. As a council, we encourage all to consider this immensely valuable resource.

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