NHS Long Term Plan, published today (7 January), said pharmacists will have “an essential role to play” in delivering the goals set out, especially in primary and community care, for the next five years.

“We will work with government to make greater use of community pharmacists’ skills and opportunities to engage patients, while also exploring further efficiencies through reform of reimbursement and wider supply arrangements,” said the document.

Prime Minister Theresa May launched the NHS Long Term Plan that aims to tackle major killer conditions and save up to half a million lives at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.

The Plan seeks enhanced participation of pharmacists in the ‘new service model’ it outlines for the NHS which gives prominence to primary and community care with a £4.5 billion of new investment. This funding will provide for new primary care networks based on neighbouring GP practices which will include pharmacists in the team. The funding will also be used to substantially expand the number of clinical pharmacists, it added.

As part of this initiative, NHS 111 will refer on to community pharmacies who support urgent care and promote patient self-care and self-management from 2019, along with direct booking into GP practices across the country. CCGs will also develop pharmacy connection schemes for patients who don’t need primary medical services.

A pharmacist review will be part of the new ‘shared savings’ scheme for primary care networks that encourages to reduce avoidable outpatient visits and overmedication.

Pharmacists will also see an increased role in the support of care homes with residents to get regular clinical pharmacist-led medicine reviews where needed.

Community pharmacies will be a stakeholder in the Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) model to be fully implemented by autumn 2020. These centres will provide a locally accessible and convenient alternative to A&E for patients who do not need to attend hospital.

Community pharmacies will also be a part of the effort to tackle serious conditions like cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. NHS will work with community pharmacists and other partners to provide opportunities for the public to check on their health, through tests for high blood pressure and other high-risk conditions. Pharmacists and nurses in primary care networks will also be supported to case find and treat people with high-risk conditions.

Pharmacists in primary care networks will undertake a range of medicine reviews to support those with respiratory disease to receive and use the right medication and educate patients on the correct use of inhalers.  

The digitally-enabled care proposed in the Plan visualises the pharmacies, among other services, as linked to the the NHS App and its browser-based equivalent helping people to collect prescribed medicine from the nearest pharmacy.

Medicines for which NHS spend £16 billion will be a priority area as part of a strengthened efficiency and productivity programme. All providers will be expected to implement electronic prescribing systems to reduce errors by up to 30 percent over the next five years. NHS said it will use digital technology to ensure that best practice is followed, generics are used where possible and duplication is eliminated. Augmented intelligence to analyse data on medicines prescribing will also be employed to eliminate fraud.   

NHS will work to reduce the prescribing of low clinical value medicines and items which are readily available over the counter to save over £200 million a year. This is supported by agreed measures to manage branded health service medicines through the new statutory and voluntary pricing and access schemes.

Pharmacists are expected to support patients to take their medicines as research shows around 50 percent do not take their medicines as intended. As up to 10 percent of hospital admissions in the elderly population are medicines-related, pharmacists will routinely work in general practice helping to relieve pressure on GPs and supporting care homes.  

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