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‘CPCS teething troubles confirm government apathy towards pharmacy’

The problems with CPCS confirm how government apathy towards community pharmacy has not changed much over the last few years, says C+D’s new editor Beth Kennedy

The news yesterday (February 25) that pilots of the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) GP referral scheme have seen “mixed success”– with trouble aligning pharmacy and GP IT processes – shouldn’t come as a surprise to pharmacy.

After all, according to legal experts and C+D readers, teething problems with the CPCS had already emerged: the risk of misdiagnosis; a lack of diagnostic training; and the insufficient £14 payment. For me, the lack of attention to detail in the design of the CPCS – and, indeed, many other community pharmacy services – confirms the government’s apathy towards the sector.

It’s a feeling that’s all too familiar. Having left C+D just over three years ago as a reporter in 2016, I’m thrilled to be back as its new editor. When I left, the sector was reeling from the cuts and struggling to be recognised as the clinical profession it is. The government was all but begging for closures of what it termed the “clusters” of pharmacies on the high street.

While many things have changed at C+D since then, it seems as though the core issues affecting pharmacy have remained the same. Fast forward to 2020, and the legacy of the cuts lives on in the flat funding – which is still at the same reduced level imposed on the sector in 2016 – agreed by Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) in last year’s five-year contract.

The sector was reminded of that age-old contempt for traditional community pharmacy again earlier this month as the government pumped money into the so-called “clinical pharmacists” in PCNs, while community pharmacy funding remains stalled.

Just as in 2016, it feels like the powers that be still view community pharmacists as having to prove that they are not mere purveyors of sandwiches and shampoo – although the gradual shift towards a more service-led model goes some way to acknowledging their capabilities. While I’m all for finding new services for pharmacists to increase revenue and prove their clinical nous, these shouldn’t be pushed through at the expense of effective planning.

So, it’s a shame that the CPCS is having some difficulties. Still, the service is in its early days, so here’s hoping that the government listens to the news and tweaks the scheme accordingly. After all these years of stagnation, it’s high time that it kicked its habit of overlooking pharmacy once and for all.

Beth Kennedy is editor of C+D. Tweet her @CandDBeth

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