The Pharmacutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has  called on pharmacies to help deal with winter pressures faced by the health service.

It backed calls for a 'longer-term, sustainable approach to urgent and emergency care', but warned that this should include 'full integration' of community pharmacy.

The news comes in response to a survey of NHS trusts undertaken by NHS Providers, which revealed that nearly half of Trusts think that planned extra social care funding will have no impact on their ability to manage pressures this winter.

Not confident provide high-quality care

In fact, it was revealed that only 57% of Trusts are confident they can provide safe and high quality care this winter.

'It was striking how worried trusts were about insufficient capacity, right the way across the health and care system,' NHS Providers chief executive, Chris Hopson said.

Lack of capacity for winter pressures:

  • 92% of Trusts reported a lack of capacity in primary care
  • 91% a lack of capacity in social care
  • 80% a lack of capacity in mental health services
  • 76% a lack of community service capacity
  • 71% a lack of acute hospital capacity
  • 64% a lack of ambulance capacity

'We are therefore calling for an additional £350m to give targeted support to those areas where the extra social care funding will have little or no impact,' Mr Hopson said.

'This would allow the NHS to commission the extra community, mental health, ambulance and hospital capacity required. There will be no single right answer for the use of this money, but decisions should be taken locally to suit local needs.

'The money should be funded by a repayable loan or an advance drawdown on the extra £8bn promised for the NHS in the Conservative manifesto.'

'Any plan must include full integration of pharmacies'

PSNC chief executive, Sue Sharpe said: 'It is no surprise to hear that NHS Providers has concerns about the ability of the NHS to manage winter pressures this year; we know that all health and care services are under immense pressure as demand for services rises and funding is squeezed, and these pressures are always exacerbated in the winter months.

'Pharmacies are ideally placed to help people being released from hospital to ensure that they understand how to take or use any new medicines prescribed for them while in hospital and provide advice so they can look after themselves properly to avoid readmission.

'Pharmacies can also help people with long-term conditions such as asthma to manage their conditions through winter, avoiding hospital admissions in the first place. A pharmacy respiratory support service could help prevent some of the 60,000 hospital admissions due to asthma and the 113,000 admissions due to COPD each year.

'The network of community pharmacies is ready, willing and able to implement some of the plans set out by NHS Providers; we hope that health leaders will take note and make full use of the sector.'