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
2020” 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 the European Commission Green Paper on Ageing
, PGEU believes that maximizing the scope of community pharmacy practice, supporting community pharmacists to continuously provide high quality health services to their patients, can be a key policy lever for EU Member States to address common challenges, including on affordability and accessibility of healthcare and digitalization, while maintaining health systems fiscal and financial sustainability.
Access to health services in the proximity of local populations is one of the key components of strong primary care and territorial medicine, and the potential for maximizing the scope of community pharmacy services for the strengthening of the proximity health services, particularly in addressing the needs of the elderly and more generally population in remote rural areas, is enormous. Taking advantage of the pharmacy network will make it possible to improve health and care in conditions of equity for people living in rural and depopulated areas, particularly the most vulnerable groups, improving their health and quality of life.
At European level, several countries have implemented support measures for pharmacies located in rural and remote areas, or for pharmacies with lower financial viability. Such support can be provided in different ways, therefore PGEU recommends that national governments ensure that community pharmacies are adequately remunerated and even more so in rural areas, in order to meet the common public health objective to ensure equitable access to medicines to all and to foster pharmaceutical care and healthcare services in the proximity of local communities.