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The NHS Long Term Plan is a bit of a win for pharmacists, all told

By Dr Livingstone

11 Jan 2019

Our GP blogger Dr Livingstone was surprised by the relatively frequent mentions of pharmacy in the nHS’s new major planning document

So, have you read it? I’ll forgive you if the answer’s no. After all, it is 136 pages long. And, to be honest, it’s not always the most riveting of reads. But the just published NHS Long Term Plan (LTP) is, of course, as important as it is soporific, because it outlines the Government’s plans for the health service over the next 10 years.

True, given that we’re driving full speed towards the Brexit precipice, it seems a bit pointless projecting anywhere beyond the next week. But this latest glossy take on what the public can expect from our glorious health service in the forthcoming decade at least gives me an excuse for an enjoyable exercise in cynicism.

Or so I thought. Yet, when I typed ‘pharmacy’ and ‘pharmacist’ into the online word search function, I did not, as I had expected, see a pop up announcing, ‘Item not found’. Far from it. pharmacists/pharmacies featured heavily (24 times if you really want to know. OK, ‘GP’ scored 88, but I’d still say that’s a good result).

Given recent history, you’d have been forgiven for thinking you pharmacists are the lonely wallflower of the NHS. But no, online search technology proves that you shall come to the Long Term Plan Dance.

Specifically, you have an ‘essential role’ in delivering this vision of the future. There will be an ‘increased use of pharmacy skills’ and ‘opportunities to engage patients’. You will provide ‘tests for blood pressure and other high risk conditions’. NHS 111 will refer patients to you for ‘self-care and self-management’. And you will ‘support patients and general practice’ to reduce ‘overmedication’ by, for example, arranging ‘pharmacist-led medication reviews of care home residents’.

See? You’re all over this like a rash (something else I imagine the LTP says you can deal with).

There’s just the teensy question of where the money will come from to fund these roles and initiatives. That’s where my next word search – ‘dosh’ – proved less fruitful. All I could find was the comment that, ‘Funding for new primary care networks will be used to substantially expand the number of clinical pharmacists’.

I see. So that will be those networks based who knows where, organised by who knows who, funded to the tune of who knows what, divvying up their resources who knows how. Some of that will come to you. Possibly. Looks like you can sleep easy for the next ten years.

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