Pharmacists have welcomed the positive findings of an evaluation on the new medicine service (NMS) and called for closer collaboration with GPs to ensure its success.
The report by Nottingham University, which showed that the service "significantly" improved medicines adherence and saved the NHS money, proved that the service should be permanently commissioned, industry leaders said.
But some contractors expressed concerns about the pressure the service placed on under-staffed pharmacies and the difficulties of signing up patients.
Pharmacy Voice chief executive Rob Darracott told C+D that the evaluation was "something to be celebrated" and the service deserved investment.
Mr Darracott highlighted the report's findings that greater integration between pharmacy and the rest of primary care was needed to improve the service further. "GPs should understand what the service is - you need the right kind of dialogue between different groups," he said.
Numark director of pharmacy services Mimi Lau said she was "relieved" that the long-awaited evaluation had finally been published and agreed it was important to get GPs engaged with the service.
"We have to be clear that the service complements the GPs' service, they shouldn't be seen as competing. The Department of Health needs to communicate to GPs that this is the role of pharmacy," she told C+D.
David Branford, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's English Pharmacy Board, said the "rigorous" evaluation left him in "no doubt" that the service benefited patients.
He called for the NMS to be expanded to include patients with depression and dementia, but said access to patient records and effective IT systems were vital to make this a success.
Robbie Turner, chief executive of Community Pharmacy West Yorkshire, told C+D he was "not surprised" by the positive findings of the evaluation and said it would be "madness" not to re-commission the service.
"For this to work and get the best possible patient outcome it needs validation from all players in the NHS, especially GPs. We're seeing that in pockets [of the region] at the moment," he said.
However, some pharmacists did not agree with the evaluation's positive appraisal of the NMS and cited practical difficulties with delivering the service.
Amanda Smith, manager of Heath Pharmacy in Halifax, told C+D that the lack of communication with GPs had made it hard to sign up patients.
"I think GPs feel they should follow up with patients, but it would free-up appointments if [patients] used NMS. People would trust the service more if it was referred from the GPs," Ms Smith said.
'Burden' to pharmacists
Community pharmacist Clive Hodgson told C+D that NMS targets could be a "burden" for staff in under-resourced pharmacies.
"There are only so many hours in the working day and like many pharmacists I gave up on the NMS some time ago. I personally think there are many more important things to prioritise before allocating time to the NMS," Mr Hodgson posted on the C+D website.
Community pharmacist Stephen Eggleston said he had a "foot in both camps". It was "discouraging" when some patients turned down the NMS in favour of their GP, but even these conversations helped build relationships with patients, he posted on the C+D website.
Read the Twitter response to the NMS evaluation here.