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We need 'right' contract so pharmacy can 'do more', Matt Hancock says

Matt Hancock: I see pharmacies as an asset in the community
Matt Hancock: I see pharmacies as an asset in the community

The pharmacy contract in England needs to be amended so the sector can do more to help relieve pressure on the NHS, health secretary Matt Hancock has said.

In a pre-recorded video shown at the Sigma conference in Muscat, Oman, on Sunday (February 17), Mr Hancock said he wants to see “community pharmacies doing much more”.

However, he recognised “there are lots of things that we need to do to make that happen”.

“Firstly, we need to get the contract right, and we're starting discussions on that,” he said.

“We need to make sure the IT is right, so that the right information is in the right place, and we need to make sure that we support our community pharmacies in order [for them] to deliver,” Mr Hancock explained.

“In this country, too often we reach to go to the GP when often…our concerns can be solved [within] pharmacies.

“I want us to be a country where more often the first port of call is to go and see the pharmacy,” he stressed.

“I see community pharmacies as an asset...helping people to stay healthy” (see video in full below).

PSNC: Interim funding arrangement needed

In another video interview shown at the Sigma conference, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive Simon Dukes said that funding negotiations for the 2019-20 contract are likely to start in April.

This means that there will have to be an “interim arrangement from April”, PSNC director of funding Mike Dent explained.

PSNC announced in October that funding for England’s pharmacies will remain at its current level of £2.592 billion for the remainder of the financial year.

“We’ll be talking to the Department of Health and Social Care about [interim funding] in the next few days,” Mr Dent added.

Mr Hancock recorded this video during​ a visit to Lords Pharmacy, Newmarket, on February 1.

Follow @CandDThomas on Twitter to catch up with all the latest coverage from the Sigma conference in Muscat.

What do you make of Mr Hancock's comments?

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

You'll get what you pay for.

Richard MacLeavy, Dispenser Manager/ Dispensing Assistant

He has used the term "right funding" a few times now a notice and theres never a mention of increase

Graham Turner, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

It's probably because he's planning on decreasing it.

david williams, Community pharmacist

Not so  clear cut as one might think. Community pharmacy is lagging behind in our development. I understand we have delivered what has been asked of us-higher and higher volumes within a fixed budget-no issues there. However, automation is the modus operandi is most industries that are succesful. We have not kept pace with the real world. I operate 3 pharmacies (albeit in Wales where the investment has definately been more forward thinking, by a more socially conscious government) and supply has been our main priority. Different times, different world now. We need to demonstrate we add value to the dispensing process. That means, divorcing our role as a pharmacist from it and delegating to technicians and ACT's and adding input as and when needed. It is a fact, we are not owed a survival, we owe it to the NHS to add value. I am not sure that the situation is England is good for community pharmacy, however, I hope it is as we can deliver what is needed, if the funding is right. However, we have not been very good at leading-nobody told Henry Ford how to build cars cheaper-he told the world-good business??

David you are spot on the money but the facts of economics are always going to be a hard sell to those that voted you down. 

Graham Turner, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

This just goes to show that the people at the top do not have a clue what is going on right now! The current situation needs to be fixed before people who don't know what they are doing start messing around with contracts with a view to adding even more services.

If the government wants pharmacies to do even more, then why do they keep cutting the funding? Maybe Mr Hancock would like to "do much more" whilst having his salary constantly slashed? No? Thought not.

Are these people not aware of how time and labour intensive dispensing hundreds and hundreds of items per day without making an error is? And without even being allowed a break? Why does nobody ever comment on our dispensing role, despite the fact that that is what the gross majority of patients go to a pharmacy for? Every time another task is introduced which requires the pharmacist's attention, that is less time that they can spend on dispensing. If someone doesn't get an MUR or NMS then I doubt they would even care, but they almost certainly do not want to be killed by a dispensing error caused by not having enough time to check properly because some idiot keeps piling more and more work on you.

How can someone who doesn't even know what pharmacists do on a daily basis be relied upon to make decisions for the industry? At this rate, things look like they are only going to get worse, not sure how that is even possible.

Maybe Mr. Hancock could spend a few days helping out at a busy community pharmacy so he can see first-hand what the REAL issues are - it would be time very well spent if he then went on to make sensible and meaningful decisions for the industry that result in a better service for patients, instead of blindly coming up with ideas that he thinks sounds great but are impossible to implement with the industry at it's knees?

Nothing wrong with expanding the clinical role of the pharmacist to take pressure off of the NHS, but for that to happen, you need to find someone who can do the checking work or it ain't gonna happen! I agree with using ACTs to take some pressure off, but as it stands, the RP is still responsible if an error goes out, which means that the pharmacist, especially if a locum, will want to final check anyway so what is the point?

You can't keep touting all these additional services and clinical roles if the pharmacist is still responsible for the checking work. I have worked in some pharmacies where I wouldn't be able to clear the day's work even if 2 pharmacists were present, but nobody wants to spend any money so the place stays a bombsite, with a serious dispensing error just waiting to happen. And all the while, you've got people who are genuinely clueless about pharmacy saying that you could "do much more". It ludicrous at best, and downright dangerous at worst.

Needless to say, the people at the top will never be held accountable if dispensing errors and patient deaths go through the roof because they have put far, far too much pressure onto pharmacists. The GPhC will go after YOU, and it will be your career ruined, certainly not Mr Hancock's!

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Answer. diversify your income stream. Ideally leave coommunity pharmacy behind entirely and live a healthy life.

"You can't keep touting all these additional services and clinical roles if the pharmacist is still responsible for the checking work". 

Last week I spoke to the manufacturer of a fantastic automated blister packing machine. This has, I'm told, been signed off by GPhC as only needing 1 blister per 500 to be "checked". This - like it or not is the future. We might rightly pride ourselves for a great safety record but the government is NOT going to continue to pay for pharmacists to do this "checking work".

Graham Turner, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

I agree with your comment. One day, dispensing may be passed off entirely to the technicians, or taken care of by hub and spoke, or fully automated. But until that actually happens, pharmacists have to spend the majority of the working day checking scripts, so it is not appropriate to start desperately looking for extra roles for the pharmacist until one of the above has actually happened.

Angry Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

We need the right contract so pharmacy can do more....with less staff, less money, more pressure, more stress, more targets, more corporate greed and more money in the pockets of clueless greedy politicians like him that have no clue how pharmacy works. 

N patel , Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

what a load of###########

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