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Community pharmacy could release 42m GP appointments annually, calculates CCA

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The Company Chemists Association (CCA)’s ‘Prospectus for community pharmacy’ has revealed that community pharmacies can release over 42 million appointments from general practice every year.

In its prospect, the association calculated that community pharmacies could reduce hospital readmissions by 65,000 and administer an additional 10m routine vaccines annually.

The prospectus sets out bold ideas and proposals regarding the future of community pharmacy. The association said: “Community pharmacies already work collaboratively with the NHS to ensure that patients can access care easily and safely. Whilst the sector has evolved considerably in recent years, the CCA proposes that pharmacies could do even more to directly tackle key problems for patients.”

CCA is concerned that without immediate action pharmacy closures will become increasingly common. “Fewer pharmacies will considerably diminish access to vital medicines and services, with the greatest impact on those in deprived communities.”

Malcolm Harrison CEO of the CCA said: “The future of community pharmacy has the potential to be incredibly bright. Pharmacies can help immediately improve access to GPs.

However, we are at a fork in the road. Policymakers cannot escape the fact that the current business model for community pharmacy is broken, and that the pharmacy network is no longer economically viable.

If the Government wants to deliver a tangible difference to the healthcare of the nation, they will take forward recommendations outlined in this prospectus. If they are not serious, the Government will be making a conscious decision to wind down the sector.

With the right policy support and investment to match, the true potential of community pharmacies can be unlocked, benefitting millions of lives.”

The prospectus defines four key themes for how pharmacy teams can enhance patient access to healthcare and drive better patient outcomes: –

  1. Urgent Care– To launch a ‘Pharmacy First’ service in England and shift at least 30.5 million urgent and same-day appointments a year from GP practices.
  2. Prevention– To transfer over 10 million vaccinations as well as over 2 million contraception appointments away from GP practices annually.
  3. Cardiovascular disease– To screen over 5 million people each year for undiagnosed hypertension. This will likely identify over 200,000 new patients diagnosed with hypertension – which community pharmacy can manage rather than further burdening general practice.
  4. Improving health outcomes– To reduce hospital readmissions by at least 65,000 and release 2 million bed days every year, through supporting changes in medicine.

Taken together, community pharmacy can reduce the Covid backlog, significantly increase patient access to primary care, and allow GPs and other clinicians to prioritise their time more effectively elsewhere.

“However, this is only possible with investment and policy support. Unfortunately, the funding model for pharmacy is broken. After a real-terms cut in funding of more than 25% spanning eight years, the pharmacy network is on the brink of collapse,” CCA said.

It has set out several recommendations to deliver on this potential, including:

  • An agile commissioning process to allow new opportunities for pharmacies to deliver services to be brought online without unnecessary delay.
  • NHS services to be commissioned immediately to allow current and future pharmacist prescribers to practice, and relieve pressure from their GP colleagues.
  • Reviewing and updating the regulatory framework, some of which pre-dates the NHS, to ensure pharmacists are empowered to deliver as much direct patient care as possible.
  • Ensuring pharmacy teams have structured access to relevant information from patient records.
  • Allowing community pharmacies to make and receive patient referrals across the NHS.
  • Ensuring that community pharmacy funding mechanisms are urgently modernised to meet the challenges ahead.

The community pharmacy network can build on its strong track record of results and deliver on the potential outlined in this prospectus.

The CCA welcomes the opportunity to work collaboratively. The association urges the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), NHS England to join forces with the CCA, and fellow pharmacy bodies, so that together the full potential of community pharmacy can be unleashed.

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Current Issue June 2024

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