Minister tacitly admits a lack of evidence over pharmacy reform proposals
June 15 2016
A number of pharmacy organisations have joined PSNC in welcoming the postponement in introducing legislation to open up hub and spoke dispensing.
Last week, the pharmacy minister Mr Burt said that “the consultation on changes to medicines legislation including on ‘hub and spoke’ dispensing did not rely on any specific safety profile of hub and spoke dispensing.” Due to the points raised in response to the consultation, the Department of Health “does not now envisage changes to the legislation on this issue commencing on 1 October 2016.”
The Department has also published the letter it sent to pharmacy stakeholder representative bodies regarding the decision.“Although, the responses to the consultation demonstrated general support for the principle of allowing ‘hub and spoke’ dispensing across legal entities, they also showed us that there are concerns about the implementation of it, for example how patient consent, data protection and liability will work across legal entities,” it states.
A fresh round of meetings is expected to start early in July “to explore how these issues can be addressed and by whom”, before the Department will continue the legislation process.
Before the announcement was made, Mr Burt also conceded that ministers “have made no assessment” on the effect proposed changes to pharmacy remuneration will have on the range of services community pharmacies offer.
In response to a question asked by Nick Dakin, MP for Scunthorpe, Mr Burt said information on the range of services individual community pharmacies choose to provide free to their customers beyond those commissioned by the NHS is not collected.
National Pharmacy Association Chairman Ian Strachan said it was “to the credit of Ministers and officials that they have shifted the position in response to overwhelming evidence and reasoned arguments. We now hope that they will show the same degree of mature reflection in relation to other elements of their proposals.
“The entire policy package foisted on the sector in December should now be sense checked in the light of this development. At the very least, it surely calls into question the timing of the proposed funding cuts, which the Department has suggested could be absorbed because of the supposed cost savings from hub and spoke.”
Pharmacy Voice, representing pharmacy owner organisations, also welcomed the confirmation of a review of the hub and spoke proposals. Chief Executive Rob Darracott said: “In our response to the consultation we highlighted a number of significant concerns about the proposals that our members – representing all parts of the community pharmacy sector – feel remain unresolved.
“No one is against attempts to create a level playing field in the options available to pharmacy businesses, but we do not believe these proposals would achieve this at the current time. The detailed thinking that our members did, on behalf of their respective members and collectively across Pharmacy Voice, left many questions still to be answered on issues ranging from the implications for professional liability and regulation and for data sharing and consent, to the operational practicalities for businesses and the economic assumptions being made.”
The Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK noted the ministerial statement. APTUK President Tess Fenn said: “APTUK welcomes the opportunity for further discussions, particularly to clarify aspects relating to how liability will work across legal entities and how this will impact on pharmacy technicians.”
Community Pharmacy Scotland has also published its response to the consultation, emphasising that both the hub and spoke premises need to be registered pharmacies. “It is vital that the relationship between the patient and their community pharmacist remains strong. This will ensure the patient care and advice is provided in the pharmacy,” it said.
“If the option to deliver direct to the patient is implemented, the vital counselling may not take place, which would have a detrimental effect on the care provided. We do not want to see the supply and service completely separated. Otherwise, all we have is internet pharmacy and a commoditisation of the dispensing service.”