Community pharmacists 'should be part of' sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) in order to get more services commissioned, Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) president Ash Soni has said.

STPs are made up of NHS organisations and local authorities and aim to improve health and care in 44 areas in England.

In an exclusive interview with The Pharmacist, Mr Soni said: ‘Community pharmacists should be part of STPs and closer to commissioning groups. We’ll support them to look at how they create federations in the same way they did with GPs.

‘Lots of pharmacy groups have done it but they haven’t had the same resource as general practice to develop these models and therefore find it more difficult to go to commissioners and get services commissioned.

‘How can STPs know what community pharmacy can offer if pharmacists aren’t part of them?’

Vital role

Around 90% of patient interaction takes place in primary care, with 80% in pharmacy.

Mr Soni said: ‘Pharmacy sees four times the number of people than general practice does.

‘We need to recognise that and use it as an opportunity to be close to people and help them.

‘I hope we continue to see pharmacists and pharmacies as a key part of the NHS and social care and that we utilise them more effectively.

‘Wherever there’s a medicine, there should be a pharmacist,’ continued Mr Soni.

Inconsistency in services

Community-based services, such as smoking cessation, vary from one pharmacy to another.

Mr Soni said that ‘this inconsistency doesn’t help’.

He added: ‘The lack of a nation-wide investment or the expectation from a national basis of what should be a common core in local is missing.

‘If you’re an asthmatic or diabetic in Bournemouth or Newcastle, you’re exactly the same, so how do we provide the same care for both patients?

‘We should have national templates of what quality services should look like and how we better utilise pharmacy as part of an integrated care solution.’

NHS dependence

Mr Soni argued that over the course of the time, the value of NHS business has gone up while the value of counter business has gone down.

He continued: ‘The NHS has taken advantage in a way that we shouldn’t have allowed. We’re much more dependent on the NHS than we used to be.

‘It has to invest more in pharmacy but pharmacy also has to think more about what it can do to provide more things the public is prepared to pay for.’