The five-year funding contract sets out a “clear vision” for community pharmacy services in England, but poses “significant challenges”, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee’s (PSNC) Mr Dukes said at a Westminster Health Forum event in London on Wednesday (November 20).
Although there are “many” priorities for the sector, Mr Dukes highlighted four that pharmacies should “focus on for delivery”: the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS); capacity; collaboration; and quality of pharmacy services.
Delivery of the CPCS “vital”
More than 10,000 pharmacies have signed up to deliver the CPCS – which sees pharmacies receive £14 for each consultation resulting from a referral from NHS 111 for minor illnesses and urgent medicines supply – Mr Dukes said.
This is “fantastic stuff”, as it “allows us as community pharmacy to demonstrate our clinical ability to deliver” and provides PSNC with “leverage” for future negotiations, he added.
Successful delivery of this service is “vital” to ensure it is extended to include referrals from GPs, NHS 111 online, urgent care centres and more, Mr Dukes said.
Capacity issues “keep me awake at night”
The second priority for the sector – capacity – “keeps me awake at night”, Mr Dukes said.
Pharmacy can only deliver the new contract “if we have the capacity within business to do so”. But, “we are still at the mercy of a volume-driven funding model”, which “has got to change”, he stressed.
Technology, automation and hub-and-spoke dispensing, as well as utilising the “wider workforce”, will “help build” the capacity required to deliver services, he suggested.
It is also important that technology is “available fairly” for the entirety of the sector, Mr Dukes added.
“We have four years for it to change.”
PCN meetings “pretty awkward”
“Collaboration” is another important priority for the sector, Mr Dukes said, but he recognised that pharmacies are “competitive businesses”.
Although it is “bloody difficult” for community pharmacies to work together with primary care networks (PCNs), “rivalries” and “disputes” must be put aside, because the survival of the sector “depends on it”, he stressed.
“Those first community pharmacy PCN meetings are pretty awkward and there's a lot of suspicion,” he admitted.
However, Mr Dukes is optimistic that pharmacies will “succeed”, due to their “entrepreneurial abilities” as businesses.
Discussions that take place at these meetings will “lead to business decisions” that “benefit patients, community pharmacy and the NHS”, he added.
“Demands will continue”
The final priority for pharmacies is ensuring “quality” is maintained and Mr Dukes acknowledged that making all the changes required to deliver the funding contract against “the backdrop of the pharmacy quality scheme (PQS)” is “particularly difficult”.
However, the PQS is an “opportunity to raise the bar”, by rewarding quality and “pharmacies have made an “amazing start”, Mr Dukes said. “Next year will be easier,” he predicted.