By ensuring delivery of key healthcare services and participating in the country’s largest vaccination drive during the tough times of the Covid-19 pandemic, community pharmacy has demonstrated integration in the sector, said Dr Nikki Kanani, medical director of primary care for NHS England.
“Not only have you (community pharmacy) delivered on this program, you’ve made sure that our most diverse communities have had access to the vaccine, at a time when demands of pharmacy and the health system are incredibly significant. That’s exactly what integration means… in the context of pharmacy,” she said in her keynote address in the first session of the sixth annual Pharmacy Business Conference held online on Tuesday, September 21.
“We now have delivered vaccinations to over 89.2 per cent of adults in England, and two doses to 81 per cent of our adult population. So that is over 77 and a half million vaccinations.”
She added that incredible work done by community pharmacy and their teams helped in avoiding 143,600, Covid-19 hospitalisations, 24 million infections, and over 110,000 deaths.
Since 2018, NHS has been working on integration in pharmacy through the integrated care systems (ICSs). The system offers partnerships between the organisations that address health and care needs across an area, to coordinate services and to improve health and reduce inequalities between different groups.
Kanani said, “We now have 42 systems in that description, which are our health and care organisations coming together to join forces to really address our biggest health challenges.”
She noted that the future aim of NHS is to work in integration with communities and systems.
Talking about the key roles of ICS, Kanani said focus on community and addressing health inequalities is the most important factor and should be the foundation of ICS work.
Secondly, she highlighted the need for collaboration, which means to move away from competition and in favour of a collaborative, effective, proactive care that reflects the community.
Citing the example of GPs and community pharmacist, Kanani noted the third key role of ICS is to enable collaboration between providers on a bigger footprint, and “all the way through the emerging and growing integrated care system”.
The main purpose of ICS is to improve healthcare, ensure equal outcomes through population health, enhance productivity and value for money by coming together and helping the NHS to support society and economic development, she said.
In November last year, NHS had published a policy paper entitled ‘Integrating care: Next steps to building strong and effective integrated care systems across England’, which focused on population health and addressed the wider health inequalities.
She added that during November 2020 and January 2021, “we heard from local leaders from all sorts of backgrounds (which) was a real statement of support, support for that vision.”
Also, more collaboration between councils, wider NHS partners is required. All these efforts are even more important as the country comes out of the pandemic.
In 2022, ICSs are expected to put in place system to enable a collective model of responsibility and decision-making between system partners.
Kanani said: “I have to believe that the future is bright because we have learned so much, we’ve been through so much together, we have to take the learnings of the last 18 months.
“Coming together around the community to address health inequalities and unequal outcomes has to be the best way not only getting great outcomes for our public, but also to look after each other in the best way possible.”