“I don’t regard [putting more pharmacists into GP surgeries] as competing with the services that you can offer,” he told delegates at the local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) conference yesterday (November 2).
Mr Mowat was responding to a speech by Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive Sue Sharpe, who said the government's continued references to employing more pharmacists in general practice – while attempting to justify its cut to the sector's funding – reveals its “confusion” about the two roles.
Ms Sharpe was met with cheers from the audience when she said: “They are not the same and they do not do the same job.”
Mr Mowat said the government “fully understands the difference between pharmacists working in GP practices and in the community pharmacy network”.
“Bruised and betrayed”
Ms Sharpe introduced the LPC delegates to the minister as representatives of a “sector that feels bruised, betrayed and badly let down”.
Mr Mowat said the description was “fair”, but stressed “we had to do, what we had to do” as part of making the NHS's £22 billion efficiency savings.
“There is nothing I can say to reverse [the cuts],” Mr Mowat told delegates. But he added he is “committed to work[ing] with the sector” to explore the "awful lot of potential" to work with "care homes, medicine reviews and be more influential on long-term conditions".
“We have moved ahead,” Mr Mowat promised, outlining the forthcoming quality payments scheme, pharmacy integration fund and recent “near miss review” fund – which will allow pharmacies to see if they are still eligible for financial protection from the cuts.
Work with CCGs
The pharmacy minister also told delegates that they will have to create “natural relationships” with clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to achieve a more service-based funding model in future.
He acknowledged the sector’s preference for a national minor ailments service “rather than CCG by CCG”, and agreed that “some CCGs are easier to work with than others”.
“It would be much easier if everything was commissioned centrally by the Department of Health or NHS England, but that isn’t the reality and CCGs are the fundamental commissioning block within the NHS,” he stressed.
Improving relationships with PSNC
Ms Sharpe described the negotiation process – after which PSNC rejected the government's funding proposals – as "the worst we have ever experienced".
Mr Mowat said he needs to "get back the relationship" with PSNC, and concluded: “It is very easy for me to talk about what I am going to do.
"I hope in a year I will be able to talk to you more about the tangible results we have achieved.”