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‘Massive problems’: Conservative MP urges pharmacy funding model rethink

The government needs to “overcome...massive problems” with the way community pharmacy is funded – including the dispensing model, which “really doesn't work”, a Conservative MP has told C+D.

Pharmacists are “not being utilised as well as they can be” and should play a larger role in the NHS’s prevention agenda by providing preventative healthcare interventions, Elliot Colburn, MP for Carshalton and Wallington told C+D at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham yesterday (October 3).

However, “there are massive problems we need to overcome to deal with that, especially when it comes to how we fund pharmacists”, he added.

“The current dispensing model really doesn’t work.”

Read more: Pharmacy bodies blast ‘devastating’ English funding deal

It comes after the funding deal for years 4 and 5 of the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework was unveiled last month. While the government waived £100 million in excess margin for pharmacies in England, it did not budge on the £2.5 billion a year in funding it agreed with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee as part of a multi-year deal in 2019.

There has already “been some great work done by the sector on how they can be better recompensed for the work that they do”, Mr Colburn – who will shortly assume the role of chair of the Cancer All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) – added.


“Pharmacists need and can deliver a much more expanded role”


Mr Colburn shared his views on pharmacists’ involvement with the prevention agenda with C+D after a panel at the conference on tackling regional inequalities in cancer care.

Cancer is one area where prevention can both deliver “better outcomes for patients” and “cut costs for government”, Mr Colburn told delegates during the fringe panel.

He told conference delegates that pharmacists are already “actually stepping in to fill a lot of that gap that is left” by GPs, as patients face issues accessing appointments in the wake of GP workforce pressures.

Speaking to C+D, he added that “pharmacists need and can deliver a much more expanded role in healthcare and that does include cancer care”.

Read more: Sector in crisis: Thousands of pharmacies at risk of closure as inflation bites

This should focus on “pharmacists helping with prevention, particularly around smoking, drinking and obesity”, he advised. “They can definitely deliver better services there.”

The prevention agenda “is crucial to deliver on our healthcare ambitions”, he said.


Pharmacy First “massively under-utilised resource”


Pharmacists in England would also benefit from initiatives such as Scotland’s Pharmacy First model – allowing prescribing pharmacists to treat a wide range of common conditions – Mr Colburn told C+D.

Pharmacy First “is a massively under-utilised resource, in my opinion”, he added.

The model is an “excellent example of where pharmacists can really help because they know their communities very well and they know their patients and their customers very well”, he told C+D.

“I think there’s definitely an expanded role pharmacists can play.”


Pharmacy model “more helpful” in tackling HIV and AIDS


Mr Colburn also chairs the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT+) Rights APPG and sits as vice-chair on the HIV and AIDs APPG.

Last year, he co-signed a letter to NHS England (NHSE) welcoming the “extremely positive” news that the commissioning body had begun “initial discussions” about access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in community settings, “specifically via community pharmacy”.

Speaking to C+D, he confirmed that this remains “a big campaign” and he has since spoken with NHSE, pharmacy sector bodies and the Department of Health and Social Care about how to better utilise “pharmacies for PrEP, but also for sexual health more widely”.

Read more: RPS: Make HIV drug PrEP available from community pharmacies

There is still “a lot of stigma when it comes to sexual health, as we know”, he added.

While the LGBT+ community “has become very, very well educated and has made huge strides in access to PrEP…we know particularly when it comes to tackling HIV and AIDS, the black, Asian and minority ethnic community is very poorly protected and has much worse outcomes”, he told C+D.

A “pharmacy model”, as opposed to a genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic model, “is probably going to be more helpful there”, he said.

“I think helping to empower pharmacists to utilise all of their skills and training will massively benefit not just the LGBT+ community but much more widely as well,” Mr Colburn added.


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