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APPG chair: Don't look to politicians to push pharmacy's strategy

It is up to community pharmacy to ensure the latest think-tank recommendations for the sector are not buried by the government, the all-party pharmacy group (APPG) chair has said.

Pharmacists and their representatives need to develop a “single voice”, as greater recognition for the sector will not come from “the centre”, APPG chair and Labour MP for Rother Valley Kevin Barron has warned.

Mr Barron was speaking at the parliamentary launch of a new report into the socio-economic impact of community pharmacy – authored by independent think-tank ResPublica and commissioned by the National Pharmacy Association – yesterday (November 20).

ResPublica made three recommendations as part of its report: for pharmacy to have greater representation on local commissioning boards; for the roll-out of a “universal” pharmacy health check, and the development of a quality improvement framework mirroring that of the GP profession (see below).

However, Mr Barron stressed at the event that while he is not “passing the buck”, pharmacists should not “look to politicians” to secure greater recognition from government and commissioners.

“It is down to you as representative bodies of community pharmacy: you get together, you make the argument of what the future of pharmacy is going to look like,” he urged delegates.

“You bring the single case for community pharmacy, whether you are a multiple, or a small chain or a tiny [independent] – bring the case to government…It is not going to happen unless you start it yourself,” he added.

Mr Barron was responding to a question from C+D, who asked speakers how to ensure this latest report does not get ignored like past commissioned reports – such as the pharmacy Call to Action – and whose role it is to put the recommendations into practice.

What happened to the Murray review?

The ResPublica report comes less than a month after England’s chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge confirmed that NHS England will not be publishing a formal response to the ‘Murray’ review – an independent review into pharmacy services published last December.

Chairing yesterday’s event, James Noyes – ResPublica head of policy and author of its pharmacy report – said he “does not understand what has happened to the 'Murray' review”.

“I don’t understand – when there is cross-party consensus – that we are still locking out an existing [healthcare] network in this country,” he added. “Not just locking out that resource, but actually undermining it by reducing its funding and continuing to push it away.”

Mr Noyes suggested that this failure to fully recognise community pharmacy’s potential is “creating unnecessary tension between community pharmacists and their GP cousins”.

What did ResPublica recommend in its report?

“Parity for community pharmacy at the strategic level”

Local commissioning structures – such as clinical commissioning groups and sustainability and transformation plans – should incorporate a pharmacy representative as a mandatory part of their strategic decision-making. This representative should be chosen in consultation with the local pharmaceutical committee (LPC).

“Universal health checks”

Community pharmacy should be commissioned to provide health checks for all working-age adults every five years. The universal health check should target hypertension – with regular blood pressure checks for everyone over the age of 18 – to mitigate the risks of long-term conditions such as obesity, diabetes and dementia.

“Quality improvement programme”

Alongside the roll-out of health checks for all working-age adults, community pharmacy itself would benefit from standardising its offer and scaling up. Therefore, LPCs should establish a quality improvement programme, led by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee.

Source: Heartbeats on the High Street, ResPublica, November 2017

Read the report in full here.

Twitter coverage from the event

What do you make of Mr Barron's comments?

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