The Royal Pharmaceutical Society is encouraging better use of pharmacists in the management of patients with long-term conditions, in a new nationwide campaign designed to improve care.

Around one-third of people across Great Britain have at least one long-term condition (LTC), and caring for them accounts for around 50 percent of GP appointments and 70 percent of the health and social care budget.

However, these figures will rise with the ageing and growing population, and many fear that the NHS will not be able to cope with the current and looming unprecedented demand for its services unless its changed the current model of care.

The RPS believes that the skills and expertise of pharmacists is currently under-utilised within multidisciplinary teams, and is currently looking at how the role could evolve to help prevent, identify, treat and support people with long term conditions.

It argues that pharmacists providing direct patient care should have the opportunity to train to become a prescriber, fully utilising those skills as part of the multidisciplinary approach to managing and supporting people with long term conditions.

To enable this change, the RPS is calling for the law to change to allow practising prescribing pharmacists to mentor pharmacists who want to become prescribers.

It also says pharmacists should be allowed to directly refer to appropriate health and social care professionals, improving patient access to care and reducing the number of unnecessary appointments, and that they should have full read and write access to the patient health record, with patient consent.

"Community pharmacists in England have had a tough year, with uncertainty replaced by a new reality of reduced funding through the national contractual framework," noted Sandra Gidley, chair of RPS England.

"With this campaign we want to change the terms of the debate about community pharmacy in England. The new role for community pharmacists, supporting people with long term conditions within the heart of the NHS, needs buy in from those across Government and the NHS as well as those who own and work in pharmacies."