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Primary care recovery plan: Barclay wants pharmacists to do 'even more'

A new document on NHS recovery is set to detail government plans for pharmacies to take on “additional services”, health secretary Steve Barclay has revealed.

Mr Barclay set out his intentions for pharmacists to take on “many more things” in a bid to relieve pressure on GP services yesterday (January 9) in an update to the House of Commons on actions the government has taken to support the NHS through immediate winter pressures.

“There are many more things our community pharmacists can support with, which will ease pressure on general practice,” Mr Barclay told MPs.

“From the end of March, community pharmacies will take referrals from urgent and emergency care settings, and later this year we will also start offering oral contraceptive services,” he added.

Read more: NHSE: Pharmacies can help with more services, but sector is ‘fragile’

However, the health secretary said he wants pharmacies “to do even more…as they do in Scotland”.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) intends to “work with community pharmacists to tackle barriers to offering more services, including how we better use digital services”, Mr Barclay stated.

An NHS “primary care recovery plan will set out a range of additional services pharmacists can deliver”, he said.

A spokesperson for the DH told C+D that the document will be published “in due course”.


PSNC: Fund the sector


The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said it was “pleased” that Mr Barclay had talked “so positively” of pharmacy in his statement and seemed to recognise the sector’s efforts during the pandemic.

The negotiator said it hoped the health secretary was “convinced of the case for investment in community pharmacies so that they can do more to help the NHS and the public it serves at this very difficult time”.

“PSNC has always believed that with greater integration, capacity and sustainable funding, community pharmacy can be a key part of the solution for big NHS challenges such as GP access,” it stated.

“We have been discussing a fully funded Pharmacy First scheme with the government for many months”, including putting forward “a business case” during negotiations for the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework last year, the negotiator said.

Read more: 2022: The year of the missed Pharmacy First opportunity, PSNC says

“We remain ready to start negotiations on this as soon as they want to,” it added.

PSNC also referenced the letter it jointly penned with pharmacy representatives last month, which remains unanswered, as confirmed to C+D yesterday.

The DH must now decide if it wants community pharmacy to “continue to deliver huge value to patients while also doing more to ease wider NHS pressures” or whether it will “continue to degrade our sector and the services that so many people rely on”, it said.

“We very much hope the secretary of state agrees it must be the former, and that government is ready to back this with appropriate funding,” PSNC added.

Read more: Pharmacy leaders issue urgent funding plea as pharmacies 'struggling to survive'


AIMp: Fast-track Pharmacy First


CEO of the Association of Multiple Independent pharmacies (AIMp) Leyla Hannbeck told C+D yesterday (January 9) that the health secretary’s statement alluded “to the government’s desire to progress a Pharmacy First scheme for England”.

She welcomed such a move, which AIMp board member Jay Patel championed in an emergency NHS recovery meeting with the Prime Minister and Mr Barclay last week (January 7). 

It has been challenging for negotiators to secure a Pharmacy First scheme in talks with the government over recent years, Dr Hannbeck explained. 

“We hope that this is now fast tracked…in the light of huge capacity challenges facing the NHS,” she said.

Read more: DH hints at Pharmacy First timeline as it heralds bigger role for sector

AIMp also hopes that the scheme will become “the catalyst to future pathways delivered by community pharmacy in order to improve patients access to care”, Dr Hannbeck added.

She gave the example a national vaccination programme that would make pharmacies the “go-to place” for public health vaccinations and giving the sector a larger role in managing long term conditions.

During a House of Commons debate last month (December 8) Mr Barclay said that a Pharmacy First model would allow pharmacists “to make better use” of their skills and drastically improve patients' access to general practice.

C+D later revealed that that the DH that community pharmacies will see an increase in support for clinical services "over the next 18 months".

Meanwhile, NHS England set out that “increasing use of community pharmacies” is “essential” to its set of key priorities for 2023/24 in planning guidance published last week (January 4).

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