The new medicine service (NMS) should be transferred from community pharmacies to their colleagues based in GP practices, researchers have recommended.
In a Government-funded study, researchers from the Universities of Manchester, Nottingham and UCL examined the effectiveness of the NMS for 504 patients in 46 community pharmacies across the East Midlands, South Yorkshire and Greater London.
Lead researcher Professor Rachel Elliott said that clinical pharmacists based in GP practices ‘may be able to integrate NMS and follow-up support into their role.’
The study added: ‘NHS England proposes more appropriate clinical use of community pharmacy and has introduced clinical pharmacists into primary care doctor’s practices.
‘It is essential to examine how NMS integrates with these primary care service developments.’
The NMS – an advanced service that forms part of the community pharmacy contract – currently covers four conditions including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and those treated with anticoagulant therapy.
It has been delivered by community pharmacies since 2011, with 5.7 million consultations provided between 2011 and 2018 according to the study.
Saving NHS money
The study, which took place between January 2012 and August 2014, built on previous research by the authors that found that the service was effective in improving adherence to new medicines.
The latest study found that the NMS could reduce overall healthcare costs in the long term, saving the NHS in England an estimated £651m.
It said: ‘These results strengthen our earlier conclusions that the short-term cost of NMS to the NHS is absorbed by reduced NHS costs.’
Professor Elliott added: ‘The NMS workload had been absorbed into busy community pharmacists’ daily routines alongside existing responsibilities with no extra resources or evidence of reduction in other responsibilities.’
The study ‘highlights the valuable contribution pharmacists make in protecting valuable NHS budget and improving outcomes for patients’, co-project lead Dr Matthew Boyd said.
Expanding the service
Mental health medicines, eyedrops and statins ‘could be candidates’ for the NMS because patients are ‘less likely to adhere’ to them, Professor Elliot added.
Last year, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) called for the NMS to be extended to include mental health medicines, garnering support from the sector on social media.
Meanwhile, the medicines use reviews (MURs) service is being phased out of community pharmacy under the latest pharmacy contract and replaced by structured medication reviews (SMRs) carried out by ‘clinical’ pharmacists working within primary care networks (PCNs).