NHS England could save £140 million by contracting specialist pharmacists to take full responsibility for patient care, the Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) has argued.
The health service could relieve the burden on GPs and A&E by creating separate roles for "patient-facing" and "clinic" pharmacists, the PDA has proposed in its road map for England, submitted to the government on Friday (October 11).
Under the revised structure, clinic pharmacists would hold an individual contract with the NHS to provide specialist pharmaceutical services – particularly focusing on patients with long-term conditions. Patients would register with a clinic pharmacist, who would be an independent prescriber, to be seen on an appointment basis.
Pharmacists' intellectual investment and professional skill has rarely been recognised, said PDA chairman Mark Koziol
More on road maps for pharmacy
Patient-facing pharmacists could provide a service to patients walking in without an appointment, the PDA said, dispensing prescriptions and treating minor ailments under a nationally commissioned scheme.
The PDA released its proposals just over a year after it called on the Scottish government to adopt a similar model that also involved separating medicines supply from clinical care in the pharmacy contract.
The PDA's road map for Scotland helped shape a review of pharmaceutical care in the country. The government responded to the review last month, accepting recommendations to boost independent prescribing and allow patients to register with a named pharmacist.
The PDA calculated that a national minor ailments scheme would cost £146m to implement, while £352m would be spent on developing and funding clinic pharmacists. But it estimated that NHS England stood to gain £638m from the changes – creating overall savings of £140m.
The savings would be generated by increased GP capacity, reduced hospital admissions and A&E attendances, a reduction in medicines waste and improvements in outcomes.
The PDA said creating clinic pharmacists would also combat the "increasing focus on commercial and financial return factors" in the sector because they would be paid by the NHS based on the number of appointments rather than by a pharmacy company.
Close collaboration with GPs was vital to making the vision a success, the PDA said. It highlighted that GPs would also stand to gain from the model, which would free them up to focus on more complex conditions and acute presentations that would normally go to A&E. It expected 40 per cent of minor ailments consultations to transfer from GPs to pharmacies under the plans.
The proposals were particularly relevant at a time when the NHS needed to cut costs and pressure on hospitals, the PDA argued.
"Individual pharmacists deliver a very valuable asset to patient care in the form of their intellectual investment and professional skill," stressed PDA chairman Mark Koziol. "In community pharmacy, this is something that in the past has rarely been recognised and has often been dominated and overshadowed by large corporate-style commercialism and profiteering."
NHS Alliance co-founder and policy director Mike Sobanja gave his backing to the proposals, and said they could lead to a "vast improvement in the patient journey".
Would you welcome the opportunity to become a patient-facing or clinic pharmacist?