‘Huge vote of confidence’: Sector reacts to the primary care recovery plan details
Pharmacy leaders have broadly welcomed the long-awaited details of the government’s primary care recovery plan reforms – although some have warned that core pharmacy funding remains a concern.
The Department of Health (DH) and NHS England (NHSE), today (November 16) revealed the details of the government’s primary care recovery plan, which it first revealed in May.
After many months of complex negotiations with Community Pharmacy England (CPE), the national Pharmacy First service will launch in England on January 31 next year, subject to the necessary IT systems being put in place.
Leaders from across the pharmacy sector, healthcare and politics have welcomed the raft of announcements, although worries about core funding have remained a concern for some.
NPA: Increase our core funding
The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) “warmly welcomed” the announcement but has “repeated its calls” to increase the sector’s core funding to “support pharmacy services in the short term and provide a more sustainable underpinning for the future”.
NPA chair Nick Kaye warned that the new funding “will not in itself solve the financial crisis in community pharmacy” but acknowledged that it is a “substantial investment in a key service that could be a stepping stone to more.”
He added that many independent pharmacies will still be “operating at a loss” despite the funding injection, and stressed that the “combined issues” of “contract reform, core funding and pharmacy closures” must “stay on the negotiating table”.
But he said: “NHSE has put its faith in us, having seen community pharmacy successfully deliver other clinical services at scale. I’ve no doubt that pharmacies will once again deliver an impressive return on investment for the health service.”
Mr Kaye cautioned that Pharmacy First “can only work” if there is a “vibrant network of pharmacies left to provide it”, highlighting that “hundreds of pharmacies have been forced to close in the past year alone”.
AIMp: ‘A step in the right direction’
Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies chief executive Dr Leyla Hannbeck said the reforms were “a step in the right direction”.
She said: “The pharmacy network has the knowledge, skillset and the willingness to deliver these services and support the NHS. For years, we have been highlighting that, if supported appropriately, pharmacies can add a lot of value to the NHS. We are accessible and we have a track record of delivering for patients.”
But she warned that the “success of these services will very much depend on the level of red tape and whether pharmacists’ time is compensated appropriately”. “We cannot take on any more underpaid services,” she stressed.
Dr Hannbeck predicted that more pharmacies would be forced to close for good unless the sector’s funding “shortfall” was addressed, meaning that fewer pharmacies would “be available and accessible to deliver these valuable services for the NHS”.
CCA: "A huge vote of confidence"
Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) chief executive Malcolm Harrison said the roll-out of Pharmacy First amounted to a “huge vote of confidence in the sector”, marking “a first and crucial step in transforming the role of pharmacy to provide ever more care for patients”.
He added: “Pharmacy teams across the country provide high quality, essential care to their local communities, and today’s announcements will mean that they are able to do even more for NHS patients. These measures will free up GP capacity and make it quicker and easier for patients and the public to receive the care they need.”
Boots: Rolling out Pharmacy First early next year
Boots hailed the raft of announcements as “good news for patients, pharmacy teams and GPs alike”.
It confirmed that it plans to launch the Pharmacy First service in its English branches early next year.
The health and beauty giant’s managing director Seb James said the contraception and Pharmacy First services would “make life easier for patients to access the care and medicines they need quickly and help reduce GP wait lists”.
He added: We have been working with our pharmacy teams in stores to roll out these new services to patients in England. We are already commissioned to deliver similar services for the NHS in Scotland and Wales and these are very popular with our patients and pharmacy team members".
Well Pharmacy: "A game changer"
The chief executive of Well Pharmacy's parent company Bestway Healthcare Seb Hobbs said the announcement was a “welcome shot in the arm for the community pharmacy sector”. He described the additional investment as “proof of the increasing importance pharmacies have in the eyes of policy makers as well as patients”.
He pledged that Well Pharmacy will “invest a lot of time and effort into training [its teams] to be ready to hit the ground running” for Pharmacy First’s roll-out, which he predicted could be a “game changer for community pharmacy in England”.
He noted: “The seven conditions covered by the announcement should be considered by policy makers as the start for Pharmacy First; we know from the devolved nations that much more is possible."
Health secretary: “Such a positive example”
New health Secretary Victoria Atkins said it was “a pleasure” to start her role with “such a positive example of the government, NHS and pharmacy sector working together” to “improve services and save lives”.
The Conservative MP for the Lincolnshire seat of Louth and Horncastle was appointed health secretary on Monday (November 13) following a dramatic cabinet reshuffle that saw her predecessor Steve Barclay moved to a new role at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
Ms Atkins added said that the reforms would offer “more options for women”, “reduce the risks” of heart attacks and strokes, and “make better use of the skills and expertise within community pharmacies”.
Leadsom: Delivering "first class care"
The new health minister Andrea Leadsom – who appeared to confirm that she is the new pharmacy minister in a series of tweets earlier this week (November 14) – said the new and expanded services would make “such a difference”.
In an exclusive opinion piece for C+D, the MP for South Northamptonshire wrote that Pharmacy First “will provide much needed support and enable pharmacy teams to deliver first class care to even more patients”.
She noted that the roll-out would be a “phased” one - "but one designed to make the most of the skills and experience on offer, not just from pharmacists, but throughout their whole teams”.
RPS: Welcomes the convenience community pharmacy offers
Chair of The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) English Pharmacy Board Tase Oputu welcomed the Pharmacy First service roll-out and said it “makes suitable use of the clinical skills of pharmacists”. She added that the RPS was “pleased” that the announcement “acknowledges the digital investment and records access required to make the Pharmacy First Service a clinical success”.
And she said that the expanded contraception service will provide female patients “with greater choice in obtaining contraception and advice in the way that best meets their needs”.
She said: “The trials of this scheme showed a widespread welcome for the service and the convenience community pharmacy offers as the front door to the NHS. It also makes suitable use of the clinical skills of pharmacists in partnership with GPs and existing sexual health services.”
NHSE: “Really good news for women”
England’s chief pharmaceutical officer David Webb said this “further expansion of clinical services” for community pharmacy teams would allow “thousands of people” to access services “quickly and conveniently”.
Meanwhile, NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard commented that the expanded pharmacy contraception service was “really good news for women” because they will be able to “simply pop into their local pharmacy” rather than having to wait for a GP appointment.
She said: “The care and support people receive from their local pharmacy is rightly highly valued by patients and so it is essential we use the skills and convenience of community pharmacies to make it as easy as possible for people to get the help they need.”
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