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Multiples ask government to commission national pharmacy EHC service

Representatives of the large multiples and smaller chains have called on the government to commission a national emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) service in pharmacies.

Pharmacists with prescribing qualifications should be able to prescribe oral contraceptives and pharmacies should be commissioned to monitor these patients, the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) and the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) said in response to a Department of Health and Social Care (DH) consultation on prevention yesterday (October 14).

Patients would also benefit from a national smoking cessation service commissioned through community pharmacies, the associations added.

No postcode lottery

Some community pharmacies currently provide these services, but they “vary across different localities”, they said in a joint response to the DH’s green paper ‘Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s’.

EHC is commissioned by over 90% of local authorities, but “a number of these services are being closed due to funding restrictions”, resulting in different age restrictions and postcode requirements that can cause “unwarranted uncertainty for patients”.

Delivering a nationally commissioned EHC service through community pharmacies could bring a total net value of £24.9m to the NHS in the short-term, the associations said, referencing a 2016 PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the value of community pharmacy.

There would be “considerable benefits” to commissioning pharmacies to routinely monitor patients on oral contraception as part of repeat dispensing, “such as checking their weight and blood pressure”.

Smoking cessation services should also be nationally commissioned through community pharmacy, as a single national service specification would “ensure that patients across the country can access equitable care”, the CCA and AIMp said.

Improving the NHS Health Checks programme

NHS Health Checks, which are mostly provided by GP surgeries, should be commissioned from all community pharmacies, CCA and AIMp said.

This “could build capacity for GPs to focus on patients with more complex needs and will also give patients more choice and potentially be more convenient, given the accessibility of community pharmacies and the fact that many are open longer hours and at weekends”, the associations said.

Expand community pharmacies’ contribution

Pharmacies have the potential to “operate as neighbourhood health and wellbeing centres”, becoming the “go-to location for support, advice and resources for staying well”, the CCA and AIMp said.

Community pharmacies in England delivered more than 1.4 million vaccinations through the NHS Flu Vaccination Service during the 2018-19 flu season, and they “could be further commissioned to deliver other immunisations, such as hepatitis or the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination”, the associations suggested.

“There is still more that the community pharmacy sector can do, and its ability to deliver prevention services will require the skills of the whole pharmacy team. With the right funding, pharmacies can play a greater role in improving health outcomes through preventative interventions,” AIMp CEO Leyla Hannbeck said. 

Read the organisations’ full response.

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