The Pharmacy Integration Fund (PhIF) should be used to enable pharmacists to expand the range of clinical services on offer, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society has said.
The fund, worth £20m in 2016 and rising to a total of £300m by 2020-21, is intended to help pharmacists and their teams to be fully incorporated across NHS planning and service delivery.
The cash is part of a package of measures proposed by the government, including the controversial £170m cut to the contractual framework funding effective from October 2016.
The pharmacy body has now called on the government to use the money to support pharmacists in providing more direct care to patients by increasing the clinical offering.
The PhIF should also be used to help integrate the sector into local care models outlined in the Five Year Forward View, the RPS has said.
Chair of the English Pharmacy Board, Sandra Gidley, said: “We would expect bids for this fund, enabling multi-disciplinary team working, to be led by pharmacists.
“The fund should only be available to support changes which integrate pharmacists into health systems to benefit patients.
“By 2021 we should be able to see demonstrable change brought about by the fund.”
One of the three changes Gidley expects to see is urgent care through pharmacy.
“The fund can help deliver the long-awaited promise of community pharmacists as the first contact point for urgent care which relieves pressure on GP services and A&E.
“Pharmacist-led urgent care should be integrated into wider provision, for example through referrals from NHS 111 and GP out of hours services,” she said.
Gidley also believes patients with long-term conditions should be better supported through pharmacy and that new roles for pharmacists will emerge.
“Patients with stable long-term conditions can also be helped by the fund through its support of local initiatives by community pharmacists which optimise medicines as part of patient-centred care and enable pharmacists to become an integral part of the primary care team,” she said.
“Operating in collaboration with a robust community pharmacy network, the fund can further be used to develop other roles for pharmacists – a new clinical infrastructure for the profession – in care homes, urgent clinical care hubs and other new models of care.
“Ultimately this will create better care for patients and a mutually supportive pharmacy service.”
A consultation into the impact of the cuts and discussions between the Department of Health, NHS England and pharmacy associations are ongoing.