The commissioning of pharmaceutical services in England will be transferred to Integrated Care Systems (ICS) from April 2022, NHS England and NHS Improvement has confirmed.  

Until now, all commissioning decisions for primary care services, including pharmaceutical services, have been in the hands of NHSE&I. 

ICSs are local NHS commissioning bodies that consist of representatives from various areas of healthcare including community and hospital health services, mental health services and local councils. 

NHSE&I said that not all ICSs will be ready by April next year, but are expected to be ready by April 2023.  

NHSE&I will retain responsibility for ‘some specialised services that need to be centrally commissioned’ as well as ‘national contracts or contractual frameworks,’ including the community pharmacy contractual framework.  

In a letter sent to all ICSs yesterday (22 July), NHSE&I said the transfer will ‘empower decision-making at as local a level as possible.'  

It also said the process would be ‘supported by coherent guidance and support, including the right incentives and frameworks, to meet the ‘triple aim’ of better health for everyone, better care for all patients, and efficient use of NHS resources, both for local systems and the wider NHS.’ 

Back in February, the Government published its White Paper which outlined plans to significantly reform the NHS, by joining up existing services to support the delivery of care and to help tackle existing health inequalities, which have been further highlighted during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In conjunction with the White Paper, NHSE&I published its recommendations for the design and implementation of ICSs. 

Commenting on the shifting of commissioning responsibilities to ICSs, Simon Dukes, CEO, of PSNC, said: ‘Integrated Care Systems are going to fast become a critical part of the local healthcare landscape for community pharmacy. 

‘While the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework will continue to be negotiated and set nationally, these new systems will pick up the administration of this from NHSE&I locally, as well as overseeing local healthcare priorities. 

‘PSNC is working to make it easier for pharmacy to gain a foothold in these newly reformed systems: we are looking forward to engaging with NHSE&I on this topic, and in all discussions, we will work to protect pharmacy contractors from any risks as best we can. 

‘Today’s letter is another timely reminder of the urgent need to reshape community pharmacy representative structures so that we have the most effective and agile leadership systems possible – the Review Steering Group (RSG) are continuing to move this work programme forwards and in line with feedback from contractors and LPCs are taking these new NHS structures into consideration.’