Sustainability of health systems

Community pharmacists provide an increasing number of healthcare services and public health interventions next to their main dispensing service which improve access and quality of health care services. This helps health systems to move away from the traditional hospital-centric models and contributes to the resilience of health systems in Europe.

The sustainability of health systems is on top of national governments’ and the European Union agendas. In line with European and international institutions priorities, PGEU believes that expanding the role of community pharmacy and strengthening primary care systems are key policy levers to lead the way towards a more sustainable, inclusive and healthier future in Europe.

A variety of challenges including population ageing, increasing prevalence of chronic conditions and short-term costs of new therapies led to substantial rise in health expenditures, putting sustainability of European health systems at risk. As such, all EU Member States face growing pressures for ensuring quality, effectiveness and efficiency of their health systems within the capacity of their public budgets.

As outlined in the “Health at a Glance: Europe 2016” report by OECD and European Commission, more attention to prevention and stronger primary care systems could reduce the burden of chronic diseases and help European population to live healthier and longer and ultimately save up to 1.2 million lives today lost largely due to a range of communicable and non-communicable diseases.

PGEU believes that  pharmacies play a key role in reducing inequalities in access and quality of healthcare, as well as the number of avoidable emergency department visits and hospitalisations across EU countries. The network of 160.000 community pharmacies in Europe provides a unique opportunity to improve access to disease prevention programmes, immunisation, health screening, etc. through provision of increasing number of health services for all citizens.

In line with empirical evidence, PGEU members recommend the following actions at national level to contribute to high quality, inclusive and sustainable health systems in Europe:

  • Expand community pharmacy services, as integral part of primary care, such as adherence-focused new medicines service and medicines use review, screening services, vaccination, smoking cessation, minor ailment management etc., promoting prevention and better management of long-term conditions. These services showed to improve adherence and patient outcomes while being cost-effective.

  • Better integrate community pharmacies in the primary care network and recognise community pharmacists as primary health care services providers to improve access to health services for example via triage service and thus help shifting the delivery of care from overburdened secondary care.

  • Improve access to innovative and/or specialty (biosimilars and biological) medicines by increasing the supply of these products via community pharmacies with appropriate patient follow-up via community pharmacies. This is a unique opportunity to combine the dispensing service with the support of their safe and effective use by patients in the pharmacy. Reward the use of real-world evidence including evidence generation in community pharmacies to evaluate effectiveness and therapeutic added value of innovative medicines in practise.

  • Incentivise generics uptake by community pharmacy to make medicines more affordable while rewarding community pharmacists for this important economically sustainable service.

  • Involve pharmacy in national action plans to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR), improve vaccination coverage and risk minimisation plans for other medicinal therapies.