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NHS England guilty of ‘policy myopia’ over pharmacists-in-surgeries scheme

By Neil Trainis

PUBLISHED: April 18, 2017 | UPDATED: April 18, 2017

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The National Pharmacy Association chairman Ian Strachan has described NHS England’s expansion of its pharmacists-within-GP surgeries scheme as “policy myopia” and accused the government of neglecting the community pharmacy network.

As community pharmacy waits to hear if a judicial review of the government’s two-year cut to the sector’s funding has been successful, NHS England ploughs ahead with its programme of placing pharmacists in GP surgeries, announcing last week that over 700 more practices in England will have a pharmacist working inside them.

Dr Arvind Madan, NHS England director of primary care, said pharmacists in GP surgeries was a “clear win-win for patients and GPs” but Strachan (pictured), who has been vigorously defensive of the community pharmacy network in its own right, had a different view.

“This is a kind of policy myopia – investing in a very limited solution and overlooking the transformational opportunities in community pharmacy,” he said.

“Of course we welcome the principle of healthcare professionals working together closely to provide seamless care. The danger in this particular proposal is that attention and resources are diverted away from the community pharmacy network, which is under-utilised and under threat.”

Strachan added: “Many health interventions are built on the back on the medicines supply function, meaning safe, efficient delivery of services in the community, when and where the patient needs them.

“So, while the community pharmacy network can be complemented by models of care that involve pharmacists in GP practices, the pharmacy network has to remain the beating heart of pharmaceutical care in the community.”

Strachan was also less than impressed with NHS England’s apparent attempt to distinguish between “clinical” pharmacists in GP surgeries and pharmacists in community pharmacies.

“The NHS England press statement repeats the error of describing pharmacists operating from GP surgeries as ‘clinical’ in order to draw an entirely false distinction with pharmacists operating from local pharmacies,” he said.

“The real solution to GP access pressures can only lie in liberating the clinical potential of all pharmacists, especially those available without appointment, in community pharmacies right across the country.”