The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee have issued a letter
rejecting proposals from Government that amount to substantial cuts in pharmacy funding this year and next. The Government have also announced a pilot
of an NHS “emergency medicines supply scheme” and proposals around integration of pharmacy into NHS 111. There is no funding or detail regarding either of these proposals in the public domain.
Responding to these two announcements Sandra Gidley RPS England Board Chair said:
“We are deeply disappointed that the Government has not changed its approach to funding cuts this year and alarmed that further cuts have been announced for next financial year.
“Funding cuts will not improve the quality of care for patients delivered through community pharmacy. Pharmacists will not be reassured by this two-year deal which guarantees less resource for front line care. We fear for patients, the public and pharmacists who may be significantly affected by changes in opening hours and staffing levels in community pharmacy, as well as the knock on impact on already pressured GP and A&E NHS care.
“How the Pharmacy Access Fund, which the Government says should guard against reduced public access to pharmacy and increased health inequalities, will operate, is still unknown. We would expect certainty around which pharmacies will receive support from the Pharmacy Access Fund before the scheme is implemented.
“The lack of news on the promised Pharmacy Integration Fund defies logic at a time when greater integration of primary care services to improve patient care is such a priority for the NHS. We call on the Government to make good on its promise made in the original letter of December 2015 “to bring pharmacy even closer into the wider primary care and community health system”, so we can see improved patient care through better use of pharmacists in care homes and urgent and emergency in the years to come.
“Patients and the public expect and deserve high quality care from community pharmacy, the drive for efficiency from community pharmacy that the Government is looking for is in danger of becoming a race to the bottom, where only those offering low cost, rather than high value services, survive. We want to see greater investment in direct patient care to enable community pharmacists to deliver responsive health services face to face with their patients.
The intention for the implementation of a national NHS emergency medicines supply scheme through pharmacy is good news for patients. However, the NHS emergency medicines supply service is already tried and tested, with fantastic results that have both improved patient care and freed up time for GPs. There is absolutely no need for further piloting of a service that is badly needed as we head towards winter. This needs to be implemented across England without further delay.
“We also need assurance that the Government is serious about a national NHS funded minor ailments scheme through pharmacy. Any NHS minor ailments scheme needs to be true to the founding principles of the NHS and be free at the point of use. Patients and the public need a fully integrated NHS service, only then will we see people change behaviour, and pressure be taken off GP out of hours and A&E.
“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. We will need to prepare the profession for new roles, with new skills and a new focus on one-to-one consultations. We will make sure our professional development programmes provide full support for RPS members for the increasing number of roles available.
“We will support members through the difficult time ahead. We have built stronger links with patient groups, local government and NHS England during the consultation phase. We have well advanced plans to support the profession through our professional development programmes, the RPS Faculty
and RPS Foundation
programmes, which are designed to help pharmacists gain recognition as well as skills for new roles in community pharmacy and elsewhere as they come on stream. The Government has said it wants to develop new models of care and is minded to incentivise change and we will help ensure that these promises become a sustainable reality.
“Although the focus right now will be on the funding announcement we have not lost focus on our strategic aim to gain a commitment from Government and NHS England that community pharmacy and pharmacists are integral to the future plan for the NHS."