Here is the full speech given by Alistair Burt MP, Minister of State for Community and Social Care at the Department of Health, at the launch of The RPS report The Right Medicine about care homes at the King's Fund on 24th February 2016. You can find more resources about care homes on our hub page.
"I want to close today’s conference by setting out the Government’s vision of the future for pharmacy.
"To put it directly, we want to bring pharmacy and pharmacists into the heart of the NHS.
"It is no secret that care needs to become more integrated. If we want to provide holistic care and stop people falling through the gaps, that means changes for everyone, including for pharmacy.
"But there are also big opportunities – a chance for pharmacists and their teams to play an even greater role in helping people with long term conditions and making sure patients get the best from their medicines.
"But I want to unpack this Government vision further, in particular the proposals for community pharmacy in 2016/17 and beyond, which we’re consulting on at the moment
"Community pharmacy is a core part of NHS primary care. And because it’s a core service, it also has an important contribution to help deliver the NHS’s £22 billion in efficiency savings by 2020/21 as set out the Five Year Forward View and reaffirmed by the Spending Review. This will involve reductions in the amount of NHS funding for community pharmacies in England. However that sum will remain significant – with £2.63 billion of funding for the sector in 2016/17, as compared to £2.8 billion in 2015/16.
"I recognise that some of these proposals have created uncertainty and concern.
"And I greatly appreciate the contribution that many of you here are making to the ongoing discussions.
"I want to emphasise that our aim is to secure efficiencies and make savings. It is not our aim to close pharmacies.
"I believe these efficiencies can be made without compromising the quality of services or public access to them.
"Moreover, our aim is to make sure that those community pharmacies upon which people depend continue to thrive. We are consulting on the introduction of a Pharmacy Access Scheme, which will provide more NHS funds to certain pharmacies compared to others.
"It will take in to account factors such as location and the health needs of the local population, meaning patients and the public will be able to access vital pharmaceutical services.
"I want community pharmacy to be considered part of the NHS’s frontline. There is a real potential for far greater use of community pharmacy, pharmacists and their teams.
"It’s a win-win.
"This will help relieve the pressure on GPs and A&Es, ensure better use of medicines and better patient outcomes and will contribute to delivering 7 day health and care services.
"A couple of weeks ago I visited an independent community pharmacy that is doing fantastic work in supporting people in the local community. It offers a wide range of services.
"Today, you’ve been discussing how pharmacy can better support vulnerable groups. You’ve no doubt already heard about some of the excellent work by pharmacists and their teams to help address these groups’ needs, sharing good practice and discussing what more can be done.
"Yesterday the Royal Pharmaceutical Society launched a new report “The Right Medicine: improving care outcomes in care homes”.
"I fully back this publication – not just because of the savings that could be made, or the fact that it’s a smarter way of working, but because it emphasises the integral role of pharmacists. I support the concept that pharmacists should deliver high quality clinical care for care home residents. Some of the most vulnerable members in our society live in care homes and they are often taking many different medicines.
"We must bear in mind that, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, eighty per cent of people living in care homes have either dementia or severe memory problems. So having pharmacists supporting people with dementia in care homes will be of tremendous benefit.
"The report highlighted examples of good practice including the Health Foundation project in Northumbria, that I believe was discussed earlier today, that has demonstrated the benefit of pharmacist interventions in care homes.
"Community pharmacy teams also support vulnerable people as part of their day to day work. For example Community Pharmacy West Yorkshire is working with Leeds Clinical Commissioning Groups and a range of other partners on the “Making Time” project.
"It promotes a proactive way of planning person-centered care for people with learning disabilities, keeping them safe and well and, crucially, helping them to self-manage their conditions.
"I should also mention the contribution of pharmacists working in hospitals, clinical commissioning groups and commissioning support units. Their efforts have, for example, been central to the dramatic reduction in the use of antipsychotic medicines in the treatment of people with dementia.
"They have also led the way in improving medication review and use in care home residents.
"This is the type of proactive clinical pharmacy that gets me passionate about the pharmacy profession.
"And it is exactly the type of work that fits in with the Government’s vision for community pharmacy and with Lord Carter’s recognition of the key role hospital pharmacists and pharmacy technicians play in optimising the use of medicines.
"Lord Carter was very clear that clinical pharmacy services, leading on medicines optimisation in hospitals, must be expanded markedly. The Government accepts that. But we also accept his advice that will see hospital pharmacy services working as efficiently and collaboratively as possible. Overall this will deliver both better outcomes for patients and better value for the taxpayer.
"So I want to free up pharmacists and their teams across the system so that they can really show what they are capable of. But I also want to see that done in a way which is efficient and delivers best value for money.
"The proposal to introduce a Pharmacy Integration Fund will help enable clinical pharmacy practice in a range of primary care settings, like supporting the vulnerable groups that you have been focussing on today.
"The Fund will help transform how pharmacists, their teams and community pharmacy will operate in the NHS. The fund is set at £20 million in 2016/17 rising by an additional £20 million per year.
"So, by 2020/21, we will have invested £300 million in the fund.
"This is a significant resource and shows just how committed the Government is to pharmacy, hoping to extend the benefits it can provide to patients and the public.
"In its first year, we will focus on supporting the deployment of clinical pharmacists in a range of community care settings, including groups of GP practices and multi-speciality community providers, with better links to care homes and urgent and emergency care.
"But, crucially, we need to make sure there’s the development of an IT infrastructure to enable community pharmacy and the rest of primary care to communicate with one another.
"This will be an important step; it will fully integrate community pharmacy into the NHS. The creation of professional links between pharmacists, working in different primary care locations, together with referral pathways currently does not exist. But it should, if we are serious about improving care. Now, I want to hear ideas and proposals for how the fund is prioritised and used to bring about real long term change.
"How can it be linked to the development of new care models?
"How can it improve local sustainability as part of transformation plans?
"This is also the time to embrace developments in technology to provide the best possible service.
"We are not suggesting moving to a solely online system for pharmacy.
"Online, click and collect, or home delivery models are already available. We want to promote their greater use, but they’re not an end in themselves.
"One of the reasons pharmacies are used so widely, are so trusted, is because of the high quality clinically and public health focussed services that are available to people face to face.
"We want to modernise and enable patient choice, but also hold on to what patients and the public cherish the most about their local pharmacies.
"We will also consult on amending legislation to allow independent pharmacies to benefit from ‘hub and spoke’ dispensing models which will free up pharmacists to spend more time delivering personal advice and support.
"I know there are some that say that this signals the end of community pharmacy as we know it. I utterly reject this.
"What it is about is ensuring that we move towards a sustainable long-term future for pharmacy in all its guises.
"Having launched our consultation last December, we expect to announce the preferred proposals this April, implementing the changes from October.
"I want to continue to work collaboratively with you. I want to hear your views so that, together, we can shape the proposals to achieve a more efficient, modern system that will free up pharmacists to spend more time delivering clinical and public health services to the benefit of patients and the public.
"Now, more than ever, it is vital that community pharmacy continues to be an integral part of primary care and the new models of care that are emerging.
"I want to thank all of you– not just on behalf of the Government, but on behalf of the public, too, for all for the fantastic support you give to them and to the NHS every day.
"The dedication you have shown to improving public health, working closer with clinical colleagues and digitising your work will mean pharmacy is more fit for the future."