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Don Lavoie is alcohol programme manager at Public Health England and Gul Root is lead pharmacist, Health and Wellbeing Directorate, Public Health England
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pharmacist patient prescriptionFebruary 10 2016

The Government should make better use of community pharmacies if it wants to improve hospital productivity, Pharmacy Voice has said. In particular, community pharmacies should be involved in discharge medication supply.

Pharmacy Voice, the organisation representing pharmacy owner groups, was responding to the independent report on Productivity in NHS Hospitals, published last week. This report contains the findings and recommendations of the review on efficiency in hospitals led by Lord Carter of Coles.

Among the findings were:

  • a “significant variation of (2.5-71%) in the rates of prescribing pharmacists as a proportion of total hospital pharmacists”, impacting on medicines optimisation;
  • an “astonishing variety in the numbers of products and suppliers used across and within trusts” as a sample of 22 trusts were found to have 30,000 suppliers, 20,000 different product brands, over 400,000 manufacturer products codes and more than 7,000 people able to place orders;
  • “immaturity” of trusts’ use of such technology such as e-Prescribing and basic electronic catalogues for procurement.

“We also learnt that some trusts have outsourced out-patient dispensing to community pharmacy providers. This is cost effective and frees up clinical pharmacy staff to focus on clinical services,” said the report.

“Trusts that have not currently outsourced their outpatient dispensing services should ensure their HPTP [Hospital Pharmacy Transformation Programme] plans include a review of these services and have a plan in place for improving productivity and efficiency, including consideration of alternative supply routes, such as homecare providers or community pharmacies.”

Commenting on the report, Pharmacy Voice Chief Executive Rob Darracott said: “This report once again identifies the potential of community pharmacy to improve efficiency across the NHS, while simultaneously improving the patient experience. I completely agree with these conclusions.
Unfortunately, this suggested expansion of our role arrives while the sector is still working through the ramifications of the proposed cuts to its NHS funding on maintaining existing services.

“This report is full of good ideas and sends an unambiguous message to Government about the potential of community pharmacy. With the various pressures facing the NHS, now is the time to realise that potential and back community pharmacy – not cut its funding.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that the Government will act upon all the recommendations in the Carter Report, and that he has asked lord Carter to report back on progress on implementation by next spring.

Representing pharmaceutical wholesalers, the Healthcare Distribution Association has welcomed Lord Carter’s report “as it recognises the important role that the supply chain must play in helping secondary care save £5billion a year by 2020,” it said. “If the NHS is to make such levels of savings by 2020 it is imperative that it makes the most of the existing robust healthcare distribution sector that stands ready to translate the efficiencies seen in the primary care pharmacy sector.”

Martin Sawer, the HDA’s Executive Director, said the HDA is working closely with the Department of Health to utilise the expertise of its members for the benefit of NHS secondary care. “More efficient procurement through increased collaboration with healthcare distributors can unlock significant savings that can be transferred to the front line of care – ultimately benefiting patients.”

Links:

Pharmacy Voice statement

Department of Health: Independent report Productivity in NHS hospitals (Lord Carter’s review)

Health Secretary statement and link to report

HDA statement

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