Approaching negotiations for a new pharmacy contract for England presents an opportunity for community pharmacists to reduce NHS pressures, costs and patient readmissions to hospital. To make sure community can help address the shortfall, I propose that:
- In England, the money from the Pharmacy Integration Fund should be used to train community pharmacists as independent prescribers.
- We must continue to support NHS England’s efforts to re-educate the public and promote community pharmacies as the first port of call for all patients with non-urgent illnesses or health issues
- For urgent cases, patients need to embrace the NHS 111 service, which can refer patients to community pharmacies, as NHS England goes ahead with plans to roll the initiative out nationally. This promotes community pharmacists’ ability to recommend an over-the-counter treatment, provide advice and reassurance, or use their newly acquired prescribing skills to prescribe NHS medication to treat the illness. Pharmacies can also signpost patients to other services when required.
- We need to integrate community pharmacy into the care plans patients receive when they are discharged from hospital. We could liaise with district nurses and carers, and sort out any issues to do with discharge medication, the provision of monitored dosage systems, medication deliveries or medicines use reviews. Community pharmacists know that housebound or recently discharged patients often need the most help with their medication, so this would help reduce hospital readmissions.
- Lastly, we must be able to use the summary care record’s read and write capabilities fully. We could then carry out routine clinical reviews on non-complex patients, freeing up GPs’ time so they can concentrate on patients with more complex conditions.
This vision, I believe, will make the best use of the skills of community pharmacists to reduce NHS pressures.
In addition, it will reduce the NHS bill. Of course, NHS England will have to pay pharmacists more for these additional services, but this would be far less than the cost of patients attending A&E.
Umesh Solanki is the owner of Holmfield Chemist in Ripley, Derbyshire