APPG quiz Mowat on funding cuts and flu 'turf wars'
The all-party pharmacy group (APPG) put several urgent questions to the pharmacy minister and NHS England chiefs four days after the government announced a £113 million cut to the sector's funding.
David Mowat – who was one of seven attendees (see box) at the event last month (October 24) – said he sees a “positive future” for the sector and expects the APPG to “hold the government to account” in regards to its plans for pharmacy, according to the group's notes.
C+D has dug through these notes from the meeting and picked out some of the highlights:
Murray review expected “late autumn”
According to the APPG, England’s chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge said the long-awaited review of pharmacy services in England will be published in the “late autumn” and will “influence and inform” how the fund to help integrate pharmacy into wider care settings will be spent.
Dr Ridge added that King’s Fund policy director Richard Murray – who is leading the independent review – had been “impressed” by the service developments in Scotland during a recent visit. However, “it would come as no surprise that there are some weaknesses” in the evidence base for community pharmacy services in England, Dr Ridge said.
Community pharmacies need to “sell themselves”
The APPG reported that Mr Mowat said community pharmacies would have to “sell themselves” to “local budget holders” – such as clinical commissioning groups (CCG) – and “make a strong case for the commissioning of services”, if they want to see programmes such as minor ailments available across England.
In response to chair of the APPG and Labour MP Kevin Barron’s reference to “turf wars” between GPs and pharmacists over the flu vaccination service, Mr Mowat said this is "a problem" and “characteristic of business competition”.
APPG vice chair Oliver Colvile MP, stressed the importance of having a “close understanding” of community pharmacy and GP practice locations. Department of Health (DH) head of pharmacy Jeannette Howe said an analysis of community pharmacy locations had informed the list of pharmacies eligible for protection from the cuts.
Government must be “blind to pharmacy ownership”
According to the APPG, Mr Mowat said the DH was using Office for National Statistics data to define areas of deprivation, which in turn helped to inform which pharmacies are eligible to be protected from the cuts.
“The government has to be blind to ownership,” he said, and “it would not be right to determine eligibility on the basis of the financial standing of the pharmacy owner."
Ms Howe confirmed that financial assistance would only be available to those pharmacies on the original list – which has since been updated to exclude distance-selling pharmacies and local pharmaceutical services pharmacies – or as a result of the government’s ‘near-miss review’ process.
Future openings would have to “satisfy the necessary or desirable” test to qualify for funding, she added.
GP pharmacists to become “linchpin” for the sector
In response to criticism that the government’s plans to employ more pharmacists in general practice could be a threat to community pharmacies, Dr Ridge is reported to have argued that pharmacists in GP practices will become a “linchpin” across the “system”, linking both hospital and community pharmacists.
Mr Mowat said even if the government reaches its target of employing an additional 5,000 GPs, pressure on GP workload would still remain. “There would no doubt be a need for pharmacists’ skills as part of the multi-disciplinary primary care teams led by GPs,” Mr Mowat is reported to have said in the meeting.
Additional funding for urgent medicine supply pilot
As well as confirming that the pharmacy integration fund will provide “additional funding” for the government’s emergency supply pilot – which will see patients who call NHS 111 for urgent repeat medication directed straight to a community pharmacy – Ms Howe said pharmacies with late night and weekend opening hours are“more likely” to receive NHS 111 urgent referrals.
According to the APPG, Dr Ridge estimated that as many as 30% of all NHS 111 calls could be directed to community pharmacies, and the DH’s urgent care scheme would “better integrate” pharmacies into NHS care pathways.
He added that CCGs will be “encouraged” rather than “directed” to commission minor ailment services by April 2018.
Read C+D’s complete guide to the funding cuts here