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NHS England vows to ‘unlock’ pharmacy’s potential in treating complex needs

Practice New report pledges to end separation of health services and emphasise pharmacy as first response for minor ailments and lifestyle advice

NHS England has vowed to "harness the potential" of pharmacists to provide better care to 800,000 patients with complex health needs.

The commissioning body called for "organisational barriers" to be dismantled between primary healthcare services to support patients with complex healthcare needs, such as those over 75 or with three or more long-term conditions in its report Transforming primary care, published on Monday (April 14).

Community pharmacy teams already play a "vital role" in community healthcare and should continue to support people to manage their own care through a new care programme that launches in September.

Support for patients with complex healthcare needs could now be addressed in the community, says NHS England

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The results of its Call to Action consultation highlighted that pharmacists could provide a first response for minor ailments and lifestyle advice and help older people take their medicines, NHS England said. Pharmacists could reduce hospital admissions by 5 to 8 per cent by ensuring patients take their medication correctly, it said.

The report also outlined plans to change the GP contract this month to ensure general practice "securely share records" with other health services. The report emphasised the need to "break away [from] outdated assumptions" regarding the separation of health services and set out plans for GPs to provide a dedicated phone line to communicate with other care staff.

"Where traditionally a particular issue might have involved a visit to a GP or specialist doctor, needs are now being addressed by other community staff in more convenient ways for patients," the report said.

To support a shift towards a more cohesive primary care service, NHS England said it will make available 10,000 primary and community health and care professionals by 2020. It will use the £3.8 billion Better Care Fund, announcedlast June, to support the integration of health and care services from next year, it said.

Health Education England will try to attract more graduates into community and primary healthcare careers by increasing the number of trainee placements, NHS England added.

Healthy secretary Jeremy Hunt said the changes will help create a "joined-up" primary healthcare model.

"People are frustrated by using different services that do not speak to each other, and feel that their conditions are treated in isolation. Transforming primary care is the next step to safe, personalised, proactive out-of-hospital care for all," he said.

NHS England's overall strategy for primary care, which will be based on the Call to Action responses, is expected in the autumn.

Are we now heading for a joined-up primary healthcare model?
We want to hear your views, but please express them in the spirit of a constructive, professional debate. For more information about what this means, please click here to see our community principles and information

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

We;re still waiting and its August now!

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Jam tomorrow....:-(

Meera Sharma, Community pharmacist

The proof is in the pudding - this is no news breaker, BUT, will it get actioned? We've heard all this before so watch this space for some ACTIONS before NHS England get my vote of faith!

Barry Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

"Harness the potential" - I wonder where I've heard that before?
The pharmacy workforce is frazzled and the only harness I see is the one on the neck of the donkey that we have become.
This report doesn't commit to anything.
It's same old, same old.

Anthony Boughton, Superintendent Pharmacist

"Health Education England will try to attract more graduates into community and primary healthcare careers by increasing the number of trainee placements, NHS England added."

There are too many graduates as it is! I am currently a 2nd year Pharmacy student and when on placements, I get bombarded with negative comments about how there are too many pharmacists or that very shortly there will be.

I do feel that the call to action is a great way for pharmacy to speak up and it is wonderful to see that it can make changes. However, the changes being suggested do not involve pharmacists being rewarded for their services. Pharmacists are highly qualified health care professionals and they can contribute positively to patients health in numerous ways but currently we apply a lot of our knowledge and expertise free of charge. Even services that we do get paid for is peanuts (Category M reductions springs to mind) or induces work pressure (MURs).

Would a dentist polish your teeth for free without any payment from the NHS? Would a doctor consult with you for free without any payment from the NHS? (Perhaps there are some charitable professionals out there, but I can imagine they wouldn't like the idea of being paid peanuts for the quality of care they provide considering the length of training they undertook and the hard work they commit to day in and day out).

More rewards need to be pushed into community pharmacy. The majority of future pharmacists will be around £50,000 in debt from student loans. Therefore good salary prospects and benefits are needed to keep a reputable and proven quality care profession. When Jeremy Hunt understands this perhaps then the future for primary care can look more promising.

If you're a pharmacist or are training to become a pharmacist, of course there is a huge element of helping and caring for people that aspired you to become a pharmacist, however it would be a lie to say that the financial rewards did not play some part in your decision. Any other highly skilled professional would want payment for a service, so as a long standing profession, pharmacy needs to take more responsibility and control over what we will be charging for our services. After-all community pharmacies sign an NHS contract, and isn't a contract a two way street?


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