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SNP pledges pharmacy drug sourcing agency, EHC service, and vax powers

The SNP could introduce a new body to source medicines, a pharmacy contraceptive service and legislative changes to let pharmacists vaccinate if it wins the elections next month.

The Scottish National Party – the current majority party in Scotland, led by first minister Nicola Sturgeon since November 2014 – published its 2021 manifesto yesterday (April 15), ahead of the Scottish parliament elections on May 6.

Along with pledging an increase in “funding of frontline [NHS] services by over £2.5 billion” over the course of the next parliament, the SNP has also laid out plans for a new NHS National Pharmaceutical Agency and a contraception service delivered by community pharmacies.

It has also pointed at its intentions to make legislative changes that would allow pharmacists to vaccinate beyond the pandemic.

Sourcing “cost-effective medicines”

The NHS National Pharmaceutical Agency would help “ensure secure and sustainable supply chains for vital medicines, and support investment in cutting edge vaccine and medicines research”, according to the manifesto.

The new agency would also be tasked with securing access to the most cost-effective medicines, the SNP said.

This could include “establishing expanded manufacturing capabilities for both generic medicines and ‘specials’”, which is something that is already taking place on a small scale in NHS Tayside, the SNP claimed.

The party also indicated plans for an electronic prescription service across the country and an expanded Pharmacy First scheme.

Long-term changes

The introduction of the Coronavirus Act 2020 allowed community pharmacists in Scotland to administer flu vaccinations under the national programme for the first time last year.

In its manifesto, the SNP has pledged to “legislate” to make this a “permanent” change.

The party would also like to “explore options for moving the delivery of longer-term forms of contraceptive to community pharmacy”.

A “bridging contraception service” – offering alternative contraceptive methods to women who do not have immediate access to their preferred contraceptive method – would initially launch as a pilot, available with emergency hormonal contraception (EHC).

An SNP spokesperson told C+D today that, “subject to agreement with community pharmacists”, the pilots could start “within the first year of the new parliament”.

“The intention would be to pilot in a number of pharmacies in different settings in order to ensure any full rollout can be tailored to the different needs, geographies, and operating practices across Scotland,” they added.

Success of EHC service

According to figures shared by Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS), community pharmacies supplied 95,000 EHC products between March 2019 and March 2020.

The Scottish community pharmacy negotiator published its own manifesto last month, outlining its asks for the next Scottish government.

“We are delighted to share that there are plans in motion to develop this service further to provide ‘bridging’ contraceptive supplies to women struggling to gain timely access to other services,” the CPS wrote in its manifesto.

“Our ask in this area is that community pharmacy is adequately resourced to explore an even bigger role in sexual health – perhaps even becoming the first port of call for regular contraception,” it added.

What do you make of the SNP's pledges?

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