Pharmacy bodies have called for a funding overhaul to allow the sector to achieve the aims set out for pharmacy in a major new NHS planning document,
The NHS Long Term Plan, published yesterday (7 January), outlines plans for the health service over the next decade, supported by £4.5bn in funding for community healthcare.
NHS 111 calls will start to directly refer patients to community pharmacies, the document revealed. It also revealed that the Government is considering reforming community pharmacy reimbursement to help create ‘efficiencies’, although it has not elaborated on what this might mean.
National Pharmacy Association (NPA) chief executive Mark Lyonette praised NHS England for pledging to ‘make more of’ community pharmacies.
He said: ‘The guarantee of proportionately greater investment in community based care is common sense, because care closer to home is both more convenient for patients and more cost effective than sending people to hospital.
‘We are encouraged that NHS England will require measurable goals to be set for narrowing health inequalities, as a condition for receiving Long Term Plan funding for new schemes. One of the acid tests the NPA has set for the plan was that the poorest patients and communities must benefit from the new investment.’
He also urged the Government to fund pharmacy adequately to develop new clinical services.
‘The NHS is planning for the next decade. A new, multi-year, funding settlement for community pharmacies in England is needed, to give pharmacy owners the confidence to invest in services that will meet the priorities described in the plan,’ he said.
‘The document published today probably represents the start, rather than the finish, of discussions about NHS service provision in the period ahead. The NPA looks forward to being involved in the ongoing conversations about how community pharmacy can make its full contribution to meeting the challenges outlined in the plan.’
Funding must align
Numark managing director Jeremy Meader welcomed the document’s recognition of pharmacy’s skill base but called for more pharmacy funding to help the sector achieve the aims set out in the plan.
‘Now is the time to align the funding system in community pharmacy to the opportunities and aspirations set out in the long term plan,’ he said.
‘Community pharmacists are ideally placed and already have the skills and expertise to promote a prevention agenda including healthier.’
‘Greater clarification needed’
Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Pharmacy Board chair Sandra Gidley said: ‘The plan acknowledges making “greater use of community pharmacists’ skills and opportunities to engage patients”. It is great to see a move towards a more clinically focussed approach for community pharmacists. This will require investment. Therefore, greater clarification is needed on what “further efficiencies and reimbursement reform” may mean for the future of the sector.
‘Furthermore, these ambitious plans need to be underpinned with a comprehensive strategic approach to educating and training the workforce for the future, especially by investment in foundation training and professional development for pharmacists.’