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Welsh Assembly rejects calls for Wales-specific pharmacy contract

Practice Wales health minister Lesley Griffiths (pictured) has not seen a "strong enough case" to overhaul existing contract arrangements, but called for an "even greater contribution to the health agenda" from pharmacists, in her response to an assembly committee report.

The Welsh government has rejected calls for a separate pharmacy contract for Wales, saying it "remained to be convinced" the move would be justified.

In a written response to a report released in May by the Welsh Assembly Government's health and social care committee, minister Lesley Griffiths said this month that the existing contractual arrangements were "working well" across England and Wales.

The minister stressed that the system was "flexible enough" to allow discussions on services specifically for Welsh pharmacies and said the existing framework was able to provide for a "comprehensive community pharmacy service integrated with the rest of the healthcare sector".

"I remain to be convinced there is a strong enough case to overhaul the existing England and Wales arrangements and replace it with a Wales-specific contract" Lesley Griffiths, Welsh government

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"In light of the above and in the context of the current financial climate, I remain to be convinced there is a strong enough case to overhaul the existing England and Wales arrangements and replace it with a Wales-specific contract," the minister's response said.

But NPA representational manager in Wales Steve Simmonds told C+D that some elements of the Welsh contract were not working and said he would expect to see a Wales-specific contract at some point. "I would expect to see the English and Welsh contracts developing organically over time," he told C+D.

The government response, published at the beginning of July, said community pharmacy could make "an even greater contribution to the health agenda" in Wales and it pledged to help promote pharmacy services to the public.

Mr Simmonds stressed the response had been a "clear statement of intent" from the government that should encourage community pharmacy. "[The response] is important because it's put on the record what the Welsh government intends for community pharmacy – that's for pharmacy to be on the frontline," he said.

The government's response made no reference to claims from Welsh GP organisations that the greater role of community pharmacy could prove "to the ultimate detriment" of patient care.  "A key theme picked up by the committee is the need for closer collaboration between health professionals and, in particular, between GPs and community pharmacists," it noted.

The government also acknowledged concerns that some local health boards (LHBs) claimed they had insufficient funding to commission pharmacy services and said officials would hold discussions with the boards to "support the progression of community pharmacy services locally".

Community Pharmacy Wales welcomed the government response and "acknowledged its commitment" to creating a range of national pharmacy services in Wales. However, it stressed that more services should be commissioned centrally to avoid giving LHBs "too much discretion about whether and how to roll out the service".


What benefits could there be to Wales-specific contract?

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