NHS England's long-awaited primary care strategy has already been published in a document that only mentions pharmacy four times, C+D has learned.
The commissioning body promised in March to publish its "strategic primary care commissioning framework" in the autumn. This would take account of the responses to its Call to Action consultations for pharmacy, general practice, dentistry and optometry that took place this year, it said at the time.
But NHS England told C+D on Tuesday (November 25) that "everything" about its primary care strategy had already been included in its Five Year Forward View document, published last month, which does not mention any of the consultations and only refers specifically to pharmacy four times. The document calls for pharmacists to form large-scale primary care practices with GPs and other healthcare professionals, and for the NHS to make "far greater use of pharmacies".
Pharmacy and primary care representatives said the Five Year Forward View did not contain enough information about pharmacy's role within the strategy.
Co-operative Pharmacy superintendent Janice Perkins said no one in the sector had been aware that the document was the output of the Call to Action when it was published.
"If that's the case, we need to explain that to pharmacists. Our expectation was that NHS England would pull together the responses, and we were expecting a primary care strategy to be published," Ms Perkins said during an Actavis-sponsored C+D webinar on the strategy on Wednesday (November 26).
National Association of Primary Care co-chair Charles Alessi said the references to pharmacy in the document were "notable by their absence".
"All it does is paint a picture of what a future health and social care system may look like, but the detail is completely missing. [That's] either because they forgot to include it, or because it's up to us to propose how it should be included," he said in the webinar.
Lack of detail an 'opportunity'
The sparse references to pharmacy was an opportunity for the sector to "put in the missing detail" and deliver its potential to improve healthcare, Dr Alessi added.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society president Ash Soni agreed it was a "short document" that did not contain the level of detail the sector wanted. "I think it's targeted at politicians and the treasury," he said.
In April, NHS England said it had been "overwhelmed" by more than 800 responses to the Call to Action consultation for community pharmacy. But a C+D poll earlier this month revealed that 70 per cent of readers felt the commissioning body had not listened to their responses.