The plan, published today, details important changes to the health service. Rachel Carter reports

The NHS Long Term Plan, published today (7 January), sets out important changes to how health services and patient care will be redesigned and delivered over the next decade.

The plan was requested by prime minister Theresa May in July 2018, when she announced extra funding for the NHS to mark its 70th birthday.

The NHS will receive an extra £20bn a year by 2023 - and for the first time, the long-term plan has committed to diverting a third of this money away from hospitals, with GPs and community care due to get a £4.5bn funding boost and £2.3bn going to mental health.

The plan says pharmacists have an ‘essential role’ to play in delivering the changes, adding that the NHS will work with the Government to make greater use of community pharmacists’ skills and the opportunities they have to directly engage with patients.

Here’s four other areas in the plan that community pharmacists need to know about:


1. The Urgent Treatment Centre model


Urgent treatment centres (UTCs) were rolled out as part of the NHS ‘Next Steps on the Five Year Forward View’, published in 2017, and involved standardising existing minor injury units and walk-in centres into one uniform model of care to reduce A&E pressures.

The centres, of which 150 were due to be set up by December 2018, are GP-led, open for at least 12 hours a day, and equipped to deal with common ailments people attend A&E for.

The NHS long-term plan says the model will be fully implemented by autumn 2020. UTCs are expected to work alongside other parts of the urgent care network, including community pharmacists, to provide a locally accessible and convenient alternative to A&E for patients.



2. Fully-integrated community-based healthcare


The £4.5bn funding boost for primary and community care is due to be spent on expanding new primary care networks and the community multidisciplinary teams that work alongside them, the plan says. This will see neighbourhood teams expanded to include a range of staff, including pharmacists, and creating fully integrated community-based healthcare, it says.

As part of this, the NHS 111 service will start booking appointments directly into GP practices and referring people on to community pharmacists that support urgent care and promote patient self-care and self-management. clinical commissioning groups will also develop ‘pharmacy connection groups’ for patients who don’t need primary care services.


3. Public health initiatives


The plan places a big focus on prevention and as such details its aim to work with more community pharmacists, GP practices and voluntary sector partners to provide opportunities for the public to check on their health, through offering tests for high-risk conditions.

The NHS will also work with local authorities and Public Health England to improve the effectiveness of initiatives such as the NHS Health Check, a check-up for adults aged 40-74, designed to spot the signs of high-risk conditions like diabetes or dementia, the plan says.


4. Reimbursement reform


The plan also mentions that the NHS will work with the Government to explore whether further efficiencies can be found through reform of reimbursement and wider supply arrangements - but no further detail has been provided at this stage.