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a department of health building imageFebruary 15 2018

The Department of Health and Social Care has set out how it is supporting community pharmacy following the October 2016 announcement regarding pharmacy reform. 

It’s statement, headed “An independent local pharmacy campaign”, says that the government’s intention is to continue to “recognise and value the importance of the services that community pharmacies provide.”

October 2016 was when the Department had “announced plans to modernise community pharmacies, improve service quality and relieve pressure on other parts of the NHS,” as part of the wider Five Year Forward View process.

Flagging up what this means currently, the DHSC said this week that it has “encouraged greater use of community pharmacy by working to integrate pharmaceutical services with the rest of the NHS. The Stay Well This Winter campaign continues to advocate ‘pharmacy first’, and the Healthy Living Pharmacy framework supports community pharmacies to provide a range of services to help people stay healthy in the community.”

In addition, “funding of £2.69 billion in 2016 to 2017 and £2.59 billion in 2017 to 2018 was announced in 2016. This represents a 4% reduction in funding in 2016 to 2017 and a further 3.4% in 2017 to 2018, which makes an important contribution to the sum of £22 billion of NHS efficiency savings set out in NHS England’s Five Year Forward View.”

Other “benefits” cited by the Department include:

  • there has been protected access for patients through the introduction of the Pharmacy Access Scheme in areas where there are fewer pharmacies and higher health needs;
  • a simplified and more modern payment structure, phasing out the existing establishment payment, which is a fixed payment just for being there, and in doing so allowing more efficient allocation of NHS resources;
  • steps to integrate community pharmacy into urgent care pathways, including for those who need urgent repeat prescriptions and treatment for minor ailments.

The PAS has mean that “pharmacies in the scheme have been protected from the full effect of the funding reductions so that patients can continue to access the services they need,” it said. “Patients needing urgent repeat prescription medicines are referred from NHS 111 to community pharmacies, rather than to the GP out-of-hours service. Community pharmacy has also again been commissioned to provide seasonal flu vaccinations.”

NHS England has been criticised for delaying funding promised under the Pharmacy Integration Fund. In January, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society had warned that the delays were contributing to the current hospital pressures.

Sandra Gidley, chair of the Society’s England Board, had acknowledged various factors contributed to delays in some projects being supported by the Pharmacy Integration Fund. “But given the immense pressure facing the NHS and the level of concern among health leaders, it is now more important than ever make the most of the pharmacy profession, in all settings, to support patient care,” she said.

Sir Kevin Barron MP, Chair of the parliamentary All-Party Pharmacy Group had also raised concerns after Health Minister Steve Brine had admitted a significant underspend of the Pharmacy Integration Fund.

“The full PhIF budget of £42 million fell a long way short of making up for the funding cuts imposed on community pharmacy by the Department, but to now find that less than half of it has actually been spent is very worrying. What’s more, there is no indication of what the new PhIF budget for the next financial year will be and I am concerned there may not even be one,” Sir Kevin had said.

Links:
DHSC statement          
Today’s Pharmacist coverage of RPS and APPG on Pharmacy Integration Fund   

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