Health and wellbeing boards (HWBs) need to work more closely with pharmacy to “fill the gaps” in local service provision, commissioners and pharmacists have said.
Pharmacists didn’t have a “seat at the table”, which meant HWBs lacked understanding of how to use the sector to its full potential in services such as alcohol screening, speakers argued at an all-party pharmacy group (APPG) event on alcohol abuse last Wednesday (December 17).
Mike Levitan, chief executive of LPC consortium Middlesex Pharmaceutical Group, said pharmacists were “stepping up the plate” when asked to deliver services. But the commissioning system “prevented pharmacy’s voice being heard”, he argued.
“The decisions are made by those who sit round the table, and it’s not for them to decide what is and what isn’t a pharmacy issue. Only a pharmacist can advise on that.”
Contractor Graham Jones, who leads the Thames Valley pharmacy local professional network (LPN), also stressed the need for more pharmacy input on HWBs. The board was often dominated by clinical commissioning group (CCG) members and having just one representative for each pharmacy, dentistry and optometry would give “much more perspective” on their potential roles, he said.
Lisa McNally, consultant in public health for Bracknell Forest council in Berkshire, agreed “nothing” would happen unless HWBs were aware of pharmacy’s potential. But that didn’t necessarily mean pharmacists needed a seat on the board, she said – HWBs simply needed to “open up a little bit more” to the pharmacy profession.
Dr McNally advised LPCs to put across the sector’s “unique selling point” of being a trusted healthcare professional on the high street, while remaining “realistic” about what pharmacy could do.
Jag Sangha, pharmaceutical advisor for the office of public health in Dudley metropolitan council, said it was important for pharmacists to capitalise on the gaps in local service provision. He said “a lot” of HWBs were consulting on what should be in their pharmaceutical needs assessments (PNAs) and encouraged “everyone to respond” to show what pharmacists could do.
The APPG met to discuss how pharmacists could reduce alcohol-related harm in England, estimated to cost the NHS more than £3.5 billion a year, at the House of Commons on December 17.