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Fund to integrate pharmacy into NHS 'won't offset cuts'

A government fund to help integrate pharmacy into wider care settings was never intended to “offset the cuts", NHS England’s deputy chief pharmaceutical officer has insisted.

Bruce Warner said he would be “very concerned” if the 'Pharmacy Integration Fund' – a £42 million fund to support pharmacy to “develop new clinical pharmacy services, working practices and digital platforms” – is seen as a tool to lessen the impact of the funding cuts scheduled for December.

Instead, the money is an “enabler” to help the NHS and pharmacy “do things differently”, he said.

“It is intended to integrate pharmacy services into the wider and broader NHS,” Mr Warner told C+D in an exclusive interview last week (October 21).

“It is there to make that progress to a more clinical and digital future, in terms of the platforms we are using,” he added.

England's chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge – who also spoke to C+D – said the fund is “designed to do what it says on the tin”. 

Dr Ridge gave the example of granting pharmacists access to better IT and NHS email systems, as areas which the funding could be used for.

"Glass half full, or empty"

Mr Warner stressed that the integration fund “absolutely includes community pharmacists” and whether the sector uses it depends on whether you are a “glass half full or empty person”. 

"It doesn’t mean the fund is there exclusively for community pharmacy. I wouldn’t want anyone to get the impression they are excluded from it," he said. 

According to the Department of Health, the integration fund will be used to deploy more pharmacists into primary care settings, such as general practices. 

It follows NHS England's announcement earlier this year, that an additional £112m fund had been allocated to quadruple its existing scheme to recruit pharmacists to work in GP surgeries.

When asked by C+D how pharmacists can get involved in the deployment into other care settings, and whether the process will be “similar” to the practice pharmacist scheme, Dr Ridge said "we're in the process of planning that now.”

How would you like to see the integration fund spent?

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