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Care plan service and ‘low acuity’ pilot are causes for optimism

The announcement of the largest multiples’ care plan research alongside the extension of a ‘low acuity’ condition pilot are encouraging for pharmacy, says Numark’s Jeremy Meader

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement”
            – Helen Keller

It’s been an interesting few weeks for the world of pharmacy. I’m feeling rather bolstered by the long-awaited dispensing error defence milestone, the Community Pharmacy Future (CPF) research claiming pharmacy could save 21% in healthcare costs, and the Community Pharmacy Referral Service pilot that’s been extended. 

So let’s start with the research. The CPF group – which consists of Boots, Lloydspharmacy, Well and Rowlands – designed its patient care plan service to support the primary care team in managing patients with long-term conditions. It focused on patients over 50 years old who had been prescribed one or more medicines. While the study centred on a relatively small sample of participants (378), the results clearly demonstrated the impact intervention can have on patients.

The core objectives of the study were: perform a medication review; collect data about cardiovascular risk, blood pressure and lipid profile; where relevant, review inhaler technique; and develop a care plan with one or more goals working towards health improvement and condition control.

The results were impressive. Over 93% of patients set one or more goals. There was significant improvement in patient outcomes, including – but not limited to – reduced cholesterol and blood pressure metrics. This is another compelling set of data that further evidences the importance of the role of community pharmacy teams.

Another pilot, the Community Pharmacy Referral Service running in the north-east of England, has been extended for a further six months. This is a great example of how IT solutions – such as PharmOutcomes and NHSmail – are being strategically used in a service to direct patients to pharmacy.

Patients dialling the NHS 111 service who have “low acuity conditions” are referred to participating pharmacies. The pharmacist then follows up with the patient and can provide an over-the-counter treatment if required, or advice around managing symptoms. A local pharmaceutical committee involved in delivering the pilot indicated it could be rolled out nationally. Once again, this emphasises how pharmacy can relieve pressure from secondary care and prevent unnecessary visits to GP practices. This is something we are fully behind and keen to encourage.

Then, on April 16, the dispensing error defence became law, which will help protect pharmacists from errors that are not the result of negligence or a significant breakdown in pharmacy processes. This is a positive step. One would hope that this will give the profession more confidence to report a dispensing error should they occur, with a view to improving patient safety holistically, without the ‘blame culture’ we’ve all sadly become accustomed to.

So all in all, a positive outlook for community pharmacy. Of course, it’s not without its challenges – there are always going to be some within the industry, which many of us face on a daily basis. A high proportion of these surrounds fair and equitable remuneration, alongside a complex and ambiguous funding model. Perhaps the publication of the research, and extension of the Community Pharmacy Referral Service, is good timing – playing nicely into negotiations for a service-led pharmacy contract, should they gather pace in the not too distant future.  

Jeremy Meader replaced John D’Arcy as managing director of Numark in February


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