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Community pharmacy will play a key role in the UK’s evolving health and social care landscape with the introduction of integrated care systems (ICS), Anne Joshua, head of Pharmacy Integration, NHS England and NHS Improvement said.

“Clinical leadership is fundamental, across the whole of the ICS right through that multidisciplinary team, and community pharmacy professionals have a key role to play in this,” she said during the first session of the sixth annual Pharmacy Business Conference held online on Tuesday, September 21.

In 2022, ICSs are expected to put in place a system to enable a collective model of responsibility and decision-making between system partners.

Community pharmacy is already engaging and working with ICS leaders.

Work done during the Covid-19 pandemic has proven that community pharmacy working along with other professionals within the ICS, can provide a strong voice to the local communities, Joshua said.

She added that guidance published under the Future NHS has set out the anticipation that there should be two pharmacists in every ICS, and this case is in progress.

NHS working on pharmacy referrals

Over the past two years, the NHS has been working on some key areas related to community pharmacy, including the introduction of Community Pharmacy Consultation Service (CPCS), which fits well in the urgent care system.

The CPCS provides the opportunity for community pharmacy to play a bigger role than ever within the urgent care system, and since November last year GPs have been able to refer patients for a minor illness consultation through this service.

She highlighted that pharmacies are receiving referrals from NHS 111, GPs, and the NHS is now looking at other emergency care services such as A&E problems.

GPs to be incentivised for CPCS referrals

To optimise referrals for pharmacies, a new incentive will be introduced in general practice (GP) contract this year, setting plans in place to refer to CPCS, and from April 2022 there will be further incentive to increase the volume of referrals, she added.

Joshua said: “So this is a fantastic opportunity for both general practice and community pharmacy to work together on these initiatives.”

“I really wanted to flag that we’re over the million mark in terms of referrals from all the ones since its launch, and we are back up beyond the levels of the both the edge of medicines and the minor illness from where we were this time last year.”

Community pharmacy development

NHS is also looking at other areas of development in community pharmacy and considering launch of more services.

She said: “In primary and secondary care, there is almost a burning need for workforce at all levels and the work is being done to support pharmacists to go through the new foundation programme looking at independent prescribing.

“So, in two years’ time, we are going to have pharmacists coming out ready to prescribe.”

Besides, the NHS is working on a contraception pilot so that pharmacists can prescribe oral contraception to patients.

Another key area of focus is towards capacity building of pharmacy technicians, which includes training and development of pharmacists’ role to enable them to carry out New Medicine Service and immunisation, she added.

Joshua said the Pharmacy Quality Scheme (PQS), launched under the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF), addresses many areas of patient care, “but we would like to look in the context that how community pharmacy could look at the prescribing needs of their own population that they are serving.”

The scheme supports delivery of the NHS Long Term Plan and rewards community pharmacy contractors that achieve quality criteria in the three domains of healthcare quality: clinical effectiveness, patient safety and patient experience.

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