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Engage in ‘Call to Action’ to feed into contract, says NHS chief

Practice Pharmacists urged to take part in NHS England’s consultation to widen primary care role


It is "critical" that pharmacists take part in a consultation on the future of their sector if they want to see their contract improved, NHS England deputy chief pharmaceutical officer Clare Howard has warned.

The ‘Call to Action' consultation, which launched this week and runs for three months, is a chance for pharmacists to share their thoughts on how the sector could contribute to the wider primary care strategy, Ms Howard said in an exclusive interview with C+D on Monday (December 9).

Pharmacists could play a greater role in primary care if they operated more closely with GPs, and the results of the consultation could lead to the GP and pharmacy contracts becoming more closely aligned, she said.  

PSNC head of NHS services Alastair Buxton said it was "really important that everyone responds" to the consultation

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As part of the ‘Call to Action', which follows a similar consultation on the role of GPs held in the autumn, each of NHS England's 27 area teams will organise meetings of pharmacists, commissioners and other healthcare professionals to discuss local pharmacy strategies and decide if there are any pharmacy services that should be supported nationally.  

"We're hoping these discussions will give people the opportunity to say what they do at a local level. Clearly there will be things that need national support, so you would see those reflected in the primary care strategy and ultimately influence the contractual framework," Ms Howard said.

Information packs will also be sent to health professionals to explain how the current pharmacy contract works, Ms Howard said. The results of the consultation would feed into NHS England's overall strategy for primary care, which it hoped to publish next year, she said.

NHS England recognised that pharmacists could play a greater role in the public health agenda and the commissioning body was aware of "tremendous examples" of GPs and community pharmacists working closely together, she added.

PSNC head of NHS services Alastair Buxton told C+D it was important pharmacists took part in the consultation, as it was unlikely the pharmacy contract would be aligned with the GP contract in the future before NHS England had drawn up a strategy for the whole of primary care.

Mr Buxton was concerned the consultation might be overlooked by pharmacists during the busy Christmas period and said it was "really important that everyone responds".

PSNC chief executive Sue Sharpe said the consultation was the "biggest opportunity yet" to shape pharmacy's future and the negotiator would be hosting local engagement events with pharmacists in the new year to seek their views.

In their initial responses to the consultation, The Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Pharmacy Voice both said the ‘Call to Action' was a chance to expand the range of services pharmacy offered.

"What people really want is personalised, high-quality, seamless care which is focused on their needs. There has been enough thinking, it is now time for some action," said Pharmacy Voice chief executive Rob Darracott.

Last month, NHS Alliance told C+D that most GPs thought that aligning their contract with the pharmacy contract was a "no brainer".

What the NHS will be asking the health sector

● How community pharmacy can contribute more to out of hospital care.

● How management of patients with long-term conditions can be undertaken by pharmacists.

● Given its accessibility on the high street, how best to use community pharmacy to support the public with healthy living advice.

● How high quality services can be delivered in community pharmacies that will improve efficiencies across the whole health care system.

Is the NHS England consulation a golden opportunity to re-develop the pharmacy contract – and how might it do it?

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Meera Sharma, Community pharmacist

This consultation is key in revising the current contract, which does not meet the needs of the community pharmacists out there. It is perfectly fine to have consultations, but the comments should translate into something tangible, otherwise it's a pointless exercise. More importantly, how are the national pharmacy bodies going to use this significant platform to drive change? I am all for supporting new ways of working!

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

"Pharmacists could play a greater role in primary care if they operated more closely with GPs",
How many times have we heard this from someone representing us or a politician. I am aware that change is coming and GPs may be becoming more receptive to co-operation but until they open the door we can bang on it till the cows come home and we will get nowhere - they have the key, (and the money)

Yo Palumeri, Community pharmacist

It will only work if we are actually commissioned to provide services, there is no use in directing commissioners or patients to CP because they have to pay to use our services unless they are prepared to put their hand in their pockets before the patients get to us.

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