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Role of community pharmacies should be ‘radically enhanced’

Community pharmacies must play a greater role in delivering care for patients, but contractors need a clear framework for how they are to support patients and the NHS in the future, according to a new report.

The new forward view from Community Pharmacy says that pharmacies should develop “a strategic partnership approach to building the future between the sector, government and the NHS – one that reflects and respects local autonomy and relationships, is more closely aligned to the NHS and its goals, but does not leave implementation and delivery to chance”.

It says this should include “radically enhanc[ing] and expand[ing]” the services they provide, for instance by meeting regularly with GPs and, in some cases, allowing patients to register with pharmacies to co-ordinate their care.

Alastair Buxton, director of NHS Services at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, said: “The Community Pharmacy Forward View describes how a thriving pharmacy network could effectively support the high performing, affordable health and care system envisaged in the NHS Five Year Forward View.

“The health and care system needs community pharmacy to play its part in improving the care of patients and helping people to stay healthy, so we hope that the Department of Health, NHS England and local service commissioners will positively engage with us to explore how this vision can inform the future commissioning of community pharmacy services.

“Community pharmacy contractors need a clear framework for how they are to support patients and the NHS in the future, so they can have confidence in developing their teams, resources and services, and ensure that they are able to provide the most cost effective support to their local communities, using their unique relationships and skills. We hope the NHS and government will respond positively and will work with us to develop a contractual framework that provides this.”

The report says that pharmacies are an important means of accessing healthcare, particularly in remote areas.

Around 90% of the population live within walking distance of a pharmacy, they do not require an appointment and 1.6 million people use them every day.

The document also says that pharmacies are particularly important for delivering the Five Year Forward View, designed to meet the needs of a population with increasingly complex and long-term conditions.

Rob Darracott, chief executive of Pharmacy Voice, said: “The Forward View, and the development of three key domains of practice, are our starter-for-ten. They may appear ambitious but all of the proposals are based on innovative work of community pharmacy teams across the country, that is happening right now. We want this best practice to become commonplace across the pharmacy network and we are committed to working with colleagues, partners and our stakeholders make this happen, starting with an achievable, aspirational and collective vision of the future.

“We want the Forward View to help create real consensus about the future role of community pharmacy in the delivery of wider healthcare services – in the midst of unprecedented pressure on both resources and demand. We urge the new Minister to engage with us on this vision when considering his next steps for our sector.”

Among its recommendations, the report says that pharmacies should be run like ‘professional healthcare environments’, with the options for people to discuss their treatment privately and giving pharmacists permission to access their medical records.

Community pharmacists will be able to help patients identify recurring conditions and refer them to other services if necessary. The report also said that pharmacists should provide advice on maintaining physical and mental health and wellbeing.

The New NHS Alliance said recently that community pharmacies should be placed at the heart of care.

Julie Wood, chief executive of NHS Clinical Commissioners, said: “CCGs recognise community pharmacies as important partners in helping them achieve their aim of ensuring accessible high-quality healthcare for their patients and local populations. Many are already working closely with community pharmacies to support them to deliver more locally where appropriate, as well as making the most of the expertise of these professionals to lead their work around medicines optimisation.

“The Community Pharmacy Forward View published today provides helpful insight and ideas about the future of the service, and will be useful for CCGs considering how they can further utilise community pharmacy as part of their overall plans to meet the needs of their local area.”

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