Pharmacy Voice has called for additional meetings with NHS England “as soon as possible” to discuss how the government's planned Pharmacy Integration Fund should be used.
It is "regrettable" the lobbying group had to submit ideas for use of the £300 million investment – designed to integrate pharmacy into the NHS by 2021 – without further discussion with the government it said in a letter to the Department of Health (DH) and NHS England on March 24.
The fund was announced by the government on December 17, alongside its plans to cut pharmacy funding by 6%. Last month the government announced the funding cuts consultation deadline had been extended by two months but said this did not include talks on the integration fund.
Pharmacy Voice said its proposals for using the fund were submitted to the DH in February “in outline only” as it intended to discuss them further with the government before the original March 24 deadline. It stressed that it hoped to lay out its plans “in a dialogue” so it could gain a better understanding of NHS England’s “own thinking on this matter”.
Pharmacy Voice policy director Elizabeth Wade said although the extension of the deadline for the government's consultation on the funding cuts was welcome, it had delayed an “essential” second meeting with the DH and NHS England.
In its letter, Pharmacy Voice set out principles that it wants to see adopted when deciding what the integration fund should be spent on. It stressed that it should be used to “open up opportunities for community pharmacy” and the sector should be "directly involved" in the process.
The fund should also be used to support new developments and not as an alternative funding mechanisms for existing programmes, such as the practice pharmacist scheme.
NHS England should commit to facilitating “meaningful partnerships” between community pharmacy and other organisations, Pharmacy Voice added.
In its first submission, the group set out its proposals for the deployment of the integration fund, which include projects to integrate pharmacy into urgent care networks and a national programme of work on medicines optimisation.
Last week the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said the integration fund had potential to reshape the sector and should be seen as a "silver lining" of the cuts.