Pharmacists have welcomed the Welsh government's proposals to extend the sector's role by making a "fundamental change" to the way pharmacy applications are assessed.
Local health boards should be required to prepare pharmaceutical needs assessments (PNAs) for their areas in order to strengthen the planning and performance of pharmacy services, the government suggested in a white paper released for consultation last week (April 2).
The move would see a shift away from the current "inconsistent" planning and delivery of pharmacy services that focused too heavily on dispensing, it said. And instead would allow a more "alert" response to the needs of local communities where pharmacies could make a more "telling contribution" to improving the public's health.
The government white paper is a sign of increasing confidence in the sector but any services will require the correct reimbursement, warns Sion Llewelyn of Rowlands Pharmacy, Bala
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The government's focus on pharmacy as a "community asset" showed it was publicly recognising the central role of the sector, said Community Pharmacy Wales chairman Chris James.
"I have discussed with the Welsh health minister the role that community pharmacy plays in getting to patients before they need to access the really expensive parts of the NHS, and this approach is reflected in his white paper," he said.
Sion Llewelyn of Rowlands Pharmacy in Bala, north Wales, agreed that the government was increasingly gaining more confidence in the sector.
"They realise that we are there in the community and that we're engaging well. I feel that they're more considerate towards us. It's looking good for pharmacy," he told C+D.
However, the introduction of PNAs would only be meaningful if the reimbursement was appropriate, he said.
"We need to match the service with correct reimbursement to allow the service to take place. We need to make sure any extra funding for this needs assessment is spent on the service rather than adding to the bottom line of the employees or big companies," he added.
Community pharmacy played a pivotal and crucial role in improving the wellbeing of deprived communities, for whom the sector was their most frequent point of contact with a healthcare professional, the government said in its white paper.
Pharmacies were "essential businesses" that ensured economic prosperity in communities, it added.
Currently in Wales, a local health board only needs to take into account the adequacy of dispensing services in an area when deciding on a pharmacy application. This approach had not changed to keep up with the developing role of community pharmacy, the government said.
Local health boards should allow pharmacy to "raise its game" by providing services that addressed unmet pharmaceutical needs, it added.
The consultation, which also proposes a ban on indoor e-cigarette smoking, runs until June 24.
Do you think the introduction of PNAs in Wales would see pharmacists play a bigger role in the health service?