'Greater use' should be made of the Pharmacy Integration Fund (PhIF), the chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's (RPS) English pharmacy board has said.

Speaking at the Westminster Health Forum yesterday (16 January), Sandra Gidley said that ‘the PhIF should be used to accelerate referral to pharmacy schemes to help prevent readmissions into already overstretched hospitals’.

‘Huge potential’

She said: ‘Pharmacists can have a really positive impact on outcomes if they’ve got involved in the transfer of patient care to hospital and community.

‘We know that many of our members are already involved in helping to spread innovative practice and the PhIF has huge potential to further support patient access to pharmacist expertise across all care settings.

‘Examples of integrated practice are still unfortunately too few, when the Fund could be used to spread them more widely.’

Referrals to pharmacy schemes, which allow hospital pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to refer patients to community pharmacists through the New Medicine Service (NMS) and Discharge Medicine Reviews (DMR), reduce prescribing errors, ensure better value from medicines and reduce hospital readmissions.

Ms Gidley also criticised delays in the use of the PhIF to enhance vital services.

In 2017, pharmacy minister Steve Brine revealed that only £2m of the £42m PhIF, covering 2016-2018, had been spent in 2016.

Vital role

Many healthcare organisations, such as the NHS, have showed that pharmacy can help support other NHS services and take some pressure off urgent care.

Ms Gidley continued: ‘We now hope and expect to see more projects being supported by the Fund this year and beyond – a sentiment I know is echoed across the political parties.

‘At a time when the NHS is facing pressures like never before it will be nothing short of a scandal if we don’t make the best use of the clinical skills of frontline pharmacists.’