This week the Government has indicated that it wants to better integrate community pharmacy into primary care through a letter sent to the RPS and others
. In response, the Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Board Sandra Gidley said:
“The cut in funding for 2016 announced by Government comes at a time when pharmacists and their teams are working flat out, focussed on making sure patients and the public receive excellent care. This news will make community pharmacists feel completely undervalued, at a time when we are all working incredibly hard. I am a community pharmacist, and like you I am concerned about what this means for my future and that of the profession.
“The Department of Health has stated it will make a substantial reduction in funding through the community pharmacy contractual framework in 2016.
“The 6% cut will have a substantial impact on pharmacy business owners, their employees and locums.
“The RPS English Board believes that any cut to community pharmacy, and primary care generally, is short sighted if the Government is committed to its stated aim of investing in primary care and prevention of ill health.
“It is important to note that the Government has indicated that there will be investment in a "Pharmacy Integration Fund" to help transform how pharmacists and community pharmacy will operate in the NHS and a "Pharmacy Access Fund" to ensure local communities, especially rural and deprived areas, have good access to community pharmacy. We welcome both of these initiatives and will be playing our part in ensuring both are adequately funded and effectively implemented.”
Shaping our own future
“All of us in community pharmacy, through the forthcoming consultation on changes to the community pharmacy contractual framework have an opportunity to shape our own future. It is clear that the Government wants something different from the sector. If we choose to provide no answers to the questions we are asked then others will make decisions about our future. I am not going to allow that to happen.
“We will be working with our members, patients and the public to make clear how our profession can implement a new role within primary care, alongside GPs and other health and care professionals. The days of secret negotiations between community pharmacy and Government are over, something I welcome wholeheartedly. For the first time the RPS will have a substantial role in providing a voice for those employees and locums who have felt completely disenfranchised by the current community pharmacy negotiating arrangements. I will be announcing in the New Year how you can make sure your voice is heard through the RPS.”
Hub and spoke
“I know from my thirty six years as a pharmacist that there is a huge value in the pharmacist being able to have a conversation with the patient at the point of hand-over of medicines to provide useful advice. If we are not careful, enthusiasm to embrace the digital age will result in uninformed choice and patients may miss out on the help and support that pharmacists and their teams can bring.
“A lot has been written and discussed about “hub and spoke” arrangements , some have claimed there is potential for efficiency savings, others have said these arrangements could impact negatively on the community pharmacy network and even remove the opportunity for face to face consultation, hastening progression to “Amazon-like” delivery services. However, we have not heard how large companies such as Boots, Lloyds Pharmacy and others will roll out their plans.
“Independent pharmacy owners are understandably concerned by these new arrangements, although legislative barriers may be removed in 2016 allowing the collective ownership of "hubs", there is much practical detail to be worked through. My plea is that these plans are not devised in isolation but worked up coherently to ensure patient care and access to pharmacy advice is maintained. The RPS would be happy to help facilitate these discussions working with colleagues in trade bodies.”
Rules of engagement are changing
“Community pharmacists will be feeling upset and angry about the announcement about funding. It will hard for anyone to look beyond the headlines in the coming weeks. However it is clear to me that the rules we have worked to for so long are changing. This will be uncomfortable for all of us, and for those who have invested everything in the current model of community pharmacy, it will be extremely worrying.
“Our job at RPS is to ensure as many community pharmacists as possible will be able to make the transition from the current arrangements to a future that will put community pharmacists at the heart of primary care. The Government has indicated it wants to hear about proposals for new models of care and is minded to incentivise change. We would be churlish to reject this, but need to ensure that these promises become a sustainable reality. We will need to prepare the profession for new roles, with new skills and a new focus on direct patient care. We will make sure our professional development programmes provide full support for RPS members for the increasing number of roles available.
“The Government has made it clear that patients and the public will have a strong voice in the new arrangements for community pharmacy. The RPS, through our membership of National Voices, the leading coalition of health and social care charities, will also be listening hard to patients and the public. When I have met and talked with patients and their representatives I have been struck by how much more patients would like from our profession. We will be enriching our thinking through these continuing conversations with patients, and community pharmacists.
“We don’t underestimate the enormity of the challenge ahead. We will need to work with everyone in the profession to align and fit with the New Models of Care described in the Five Year Forward View which defines the working of the future NHS. We will be working with you to make sure we maximise the role of community pharmacy in the changing world of primary care.”