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Welsh government pumps cash into national pharmacy clinical service

Pharmacies in Wales will start offering “an extended range of services” from April next year, which will be backed by millions of pounds worth of funding, the Welsh government has announced. 

The "substantial reforms" seen in the new three-year community pharmacy contract in Wales  – negotiated by the government and Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) – "represent the most fundamental change to the way pharmacies operate since the inception of the NHS more than 70 years ago", health minister Eluned Morgan said today (December 16).


Under the deal, funding for the new community pharmacy clinical service – which will see pharmacies offer services including treatment for “common minor ailments and some forms of emergency and regular contraception” – will increase from £11.4 million to £20m per year by 2024.


The government has also pledged to increase funding for independent prescribing services from £1.2m to £20.2m per year by 2024.



"Considerable investment" will avoid pitfalls seen in England



“Pharmacy funding [in Wales] next year will be £8.6m higher than it was three years ago,” Wales's chief pharmaceutical officer Andrew Evans told C+D yesterday (December 15), culminating in “a considerable investment in the sector overall”.


This will “ensure that pharmacies remain viable, remain sustainable”, and “have a solid platform from which to develop the clinical services we're talking about in our agreement”, he said.


Commenting on the agreement, CPW CEO Russell Goodway said: “This agreement bodes well for the community pharmacy network across Wales and will avoid the pitfalls facing colleagues in England, where funding for community pharmacies has been cut.”



Clinical offer “won’t be conditional on referral”



The national clinical community pharmacy service is different from the NHS Pharmacy First service in Scotland, but has some similarities with it, Mr Evans told C+D.


It will “[bring] together some services that are already provided by pharmacies”, Mr Evans explained, such as a “national common ailments service, access to emergency contraception, emergency medicine supply, and also the seasonal influenza vaccination”.


While pharmacies can decide whether to offer the clinical services under the umbrella of the national clinical community pharmacy service, they will not be able to "opt into" any of the services offered in the package “without trying them all”, Mr Evans said.


This will create “a much more consistent universal offer for people who use pharmacies”, he added. Patients will “understand the sort of things they should expect whenever they visit a pharmacy”, which will limit them using “less appropriate parts of the NHS, like the GP or accident and emergency departments” for situations that do not warrant it.


Although other parts of the healthcare industry will be able to refer patients into pharmacies for these services, they “won't be conditional on referral”, Mr Evans added. Patients “will be able to walk in off the street without a referral from their GP”.



60 new independent prescribers a year



The agreement sets out a Wales-wide pharmacy prescribing service, enabling “appropriately trained pharmacists” to prescribe medicines for “acute illnesses like urinary tract and upper respiratory tract infections, and also prescribe routine contraception”, the Welsh government wrote in its statement.


“At this point in time, we've trained around 150 pharmacists as independent prescribers,” Mr Evans told C+D.


He added that the Welsh government will fund training for “at least 60 more every year” as part of its “commitment” to Health Education Improvement Wales.



Making community pharmacy an “exciting place” to work



Mr Evans is “really hopeful” that the deal will mean “pharmacists want to come and work in community pharmacies in Wales”.


“We want to make community pharmacy and Wales a really exciting place for pharmacists to come and work,” Mr Evans said.


The government’s investment in the sector will enable employers to "create packages and rewards for the pharmacists", he said, in turn drawing newly graduated pharmacists to work in Wales.


The government will also incentivise further use of pharmacy technicians by “offering training places on apprenticeship training for pharmacy technicians” and additional opportunities “to develop the skills of the wider pharmacy teams”.



CCA and RPS commend deal



In statements released this morning, the Company Chemists' Association (CCA) and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) welcomed the new agreement between the Welsh government and CPW and the infusion of funding into Welsh community pharmacies.


The agreement places “a much greater focus on the provision of clinical services alongside the traditional role in supplying medicines”, the RPS said.


Meanwhile, CCA chief executive Malcolm Harrison argued that “contractors must now work together to maximise the delivery of clinical services within the sector”.


The nationally directed independent prescriber service in particular, he continued, “will play an important part in ensuring the retention of community pharmacists who have trained to become independent prescribers and incentivise them to continue their career in community pharmacy”.


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