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Earl Howe: CCGs must increase dialogue with pharmacists

Earl Howe tells C+D that local commissioners need to ensure “a seat at the table” for pharmacists

There is still not enough dialogue between some clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and pharmacists, Earl Howe has said. 

The pharmacy minster urged all CCGs to make sure there was a "seat at the table" for pharmacists, in an exclusive interview with C+D at the Conservative party conference.

Although a number of CCGs were engaging in "very constructive discussions" with pharmacy, others were "not yet doing so", he told C+D last week (September 29).

The government's promised £3.8 billion Better Care Fund, announced last year, to encourage collaboration between health and social care was an "enormous opportunity" to make sure the role of pharmacy was recognised by commissioners. 

It would be a "glaring omission" not to involve pharmacists when considering how to spend the funding, because medication errors were responsible for a "huge number" of hospital admissions  by patients on multiple medications. 

Local professional networks (LPNs) were a way for pharmacists to "impress upon commissioners" the role they could play, said Earl Howe, who also called for areas without an LPN to "swiftly" set one up.

Mike Hewitson, who represented Pharmacy Voice at the conference, told C+D that Jeremy Hunt had spoken to him about the need for CCGs to engage with pharmacists during the health secretary's tour of the exhibition centre. 

Mr Hewitson said it was "nice to hear" that Mr Hunt was aware of the role of pharmacists, but stressed that there was need for consistency and "meaningful engagement" with CCGs, "not just warm words". 

Cathy Cooke, pharmacist and head of medicines management at Allied Healthcare, said it would be "variable" whether CCGs would choose to engage with community pharmacy. "Without a national service contract, localism of services will mean that  utilising community pharmacy will be patchy," Ms Cooke stressed. 

How well is your local CCG engaging with you?

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