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Pharmacists must raise their profile or lose out, GP commissioner warns

Commissioning Community pharmacy must raise its profile among commissioners and the public or risk being left out of the new NHS strategy, senior GP and commissioner Howard Stoate has warned.

Community pharmacy must raise its profile among commissioners and the public or risk being left out of the new NHS strategy, senior GP and commissioner Howard Stoate has warned.

Pharmacists could play a pivotal role in helping the overburdened health service but people were largely unaware of what they could do, Dr Stoate, chair of Bexley clinical commissioning group (CCG), told C+D in an exclusive interview on Tuesday (June 18).

Although some pharmacists were "extremely good", the profession had not promoted itself adequately, Dr Stoate argued at an NHS seminar hosted by law firm Matthew, Arnold & Baldwin in Watford.

"Pharmacists can do this clinical stuff but they never come to see me" Howard Stoate, Bexley CCG

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Dr Stoate reported that Bexley CCG had put a £500,000 anticoagulation service out to tender this year but Boots had been the only pharmacy provider to apply. "Pharmacists can do this clinical stuff but they never come to see me," he stressed. "We have £500,000 contracts going, so where are you guys?"

This lack of awareness also extended to patients, Dr Stoate said, which could hamper pharmacy's role in the strategy to reduce the burden on emergency care.

The government launched a consultation on emergency care services this week (June 17) and set out principles for overhauling the system, including better status and use of pharmacists. The consultation is part of an overarching review of emergency care launched in January, which will inform the government's future strategy.

Although Dr Stoate was confident pharmacy could achieve some of the government's objectives – increasing self-care and giving patients same-day access to primary care – he warned the profession could go unnoticed. "What worries me is there was a survey of patients on where to go for out-of-hours care and only 3 per cent mentioned pharmacy," he told C+D.

PSNC argued on Tuesday (June 18) that pharmacy had "huge potential" to help reduce the burden on emergency care, but there must be national consistency, which would require action from NHS chiefs.

PSNC head of NHS services Alastair Buxton called for national service templates and incentives for commissioners to expand pharmacy services.

"We have some excellent examples of local pharmacy schemes that are helping pharmacies to manage patients with long-term conditions and minor ailments more widely in the community, but to ensure access to these services is consistent across the country, we now need to have more direction from above," he argued.

Have you approached your local CCG to get a service commissioned?

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Pharmacist Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

If the persons above are in control of the pot of money and they themselves are also a player in providing healthcare, then it's very obvious that they will do anything to protect their financial interests and pockets. The playing field is very uneven and unfair. There needs to be an external moderating agency who overlooks the commissioning process and is totally independent.

Furthermore, the GPhC and RPS have a responsibility to uphold the reputation of the profession.

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

I have heard this before from Dr Stoate. It is just a little harder to achieve than it is to say unfortunately, particularly when it is in the financial interest of CCGs to ignore Pharmacy, As part of their set up process CCGs were supposed to liase with other professions but most didnt without any penalty from the DOH so why should they bother.

Bipin Patel, Community pharmacist

The playing field in not level. You are competing with other organisations that were set up pre the new NHS , and most likely initially funded by the PCT to get going. How can new pharmacy LLP or companies compete on price when you have the setup cost to take into consideration .

Gursaran Matharu, Community pharmacist

Howard tends to have forgotten that the anticoagulant service was put out to tender and won by GPs and Boots. PharmaBBG LLP (which represents over 60 pharmacies in Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich) lost out on the tender by one point! However, the new providers are not delivering the service as yet, costing one South London Hospital £75,000 per month!

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