Anthony Devlin/Pool via REUTERS

Trade and professional bodies in the pharmacy sector welcomed the NHS Long Term Plan, published yesterday, which envisages ‘an essential role’ for pharmacists in delivering the goals set out, especially in primary and community care, for the next five years.

Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), which represents community pharmacies on NHS matters, said it will work with the NHS and the government to explore community pharmacy’s contribution to the plan.

“We are ready to begin those conversations, and with the NHS now clear on its own ten-year plan, we want to begin negotiations on a similar long-term plan for community pharmacy, setting out how pharmacies can do more, working closely with primary care colleagues, for the benefit of the NHS and patients,” said Simon Dukes, chief executive of PSNC.

Dukes added that a reform of community pharmacy’s reimbursement arrangements is needed to ensure a real contribution from the sector to the plan.

“Our ambition is to work with HM Government on a multi-year settlement for community pharmacy, setting out what pharmacies are working to achieve and what money will be available for doing so, and helping the sector to move towards a future in which pharmacies are fairly rewarded for providing a range of clinical services that benefit patients and the NHS.”

Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) termed the plan as ‘ambitious’ in its vision for pharmacists. “It rightly recognises, as never before, that pharmacists’ skills and expertise are necessary to achieve better outcomes, improve patient safety and reduce medication errors,” said Sandra Gidley, Chair of the RPS English Pharmacy Board.  

She welcomed the renewed commitment on the better integration for pharmacists into the primary care and called for the increase engagement of local health leaders in this.

“We are pleased to see the increased £4.5 billion investment in primary and community care and the recognition the important role pharmacists play in Primary Care Networks. As these new structures evolve, it will be vital for local health leaders to engage with patients and all the health professions to design and implement services across their localities. To date, local health leaders have not actively and routinely involved the pharmacy profession and this needs to change if patients are to get the best use from their medicines,” Gidley noted.

RPS also pointed out the need for greater investment to implement the “move towards a more clinically focussed approach for community pharmacists” and asked for clarifications on “what ‘further efficiencies and reimbursement reform’ may mean for the future of the sector.” It also called for investment in foundation training and professional development for pharmacists.

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) expressed his approval of the plan for identifying community pharmacy as an essential part in delivering its goals.

“We welcome the plan’s commitment to making greater use of community pharmacists’ skills and opportunities to engage patients,” he said.

Harrison said the association will work with its members and local pharmacy representatives to ensure that community pharmacies are closely involved as the Integrated Care Systems and Primary Care Networks envisioned in the plan evolve across England, but demanded clarity on funding.        

“To help translate the ambition of this plan into reality, we need to see the right funding and regulatory framework to ensure that community pharmacy can reach its full potential in delivering services to patients and the public,” he said.

He said CCA will also work with NHS to deliver fuller digital interoperability between community pharmacy and other services, including general practice, to achieve the goal of a ‘digital first’ NHS.

“We also look forward to working with the NHS and other partners to understand how CCG ‘pharmacy connection schemes’ will work to help deliver a health service that is fit for the future and how community pharmacy teams in can play a greater role in the numerous prevention activities described, such as NHS Health Checks,” he added.

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