Latest updates (October 2016)
Launch of a Pharmacy Urgent Care pilot programme
Community Health and Care Minister David Mowat has announced the launch of a Pharmacy Urgent Care pilot programme which is due to start in December 2016.
The move means that patients who contact NHS 111 for their urgent repeat medicines will be directed straight to community pharmacies instead of out of hours GP surgeries.
The minister also announced a new approach for referring patients with urgent minor ailments to community pharmacy to ensure people can get high-quality, timely care. NHS 111 will develop a new approach to allow them to refer patients with urgent minor ailments, such as earaches, sore throats and bites, to community pharmacy for advice and medication from skilled professionals.
This scheme will be rolled out across England between December 2016 and April 2018.
What does the RPS think about these proposals?
The intention for the implementation of a new national NHS Urgent Care emergency medicines supply scheme through pharmacy is good news for patients. However, the existing locally commissioned 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. NHS Emergency supply service 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, which enables them to access NHS care for minor ailments from their local pharmacy, only then will we see people change behaviour, and pressure be taken off GP out of hours and A&E.
PSNC rejection of DH funding proposals
PSNC has rejected the Department of Health’s (DH) proposed funding package for 2016/17. The proposed package includes substantial cuts to pharmacy funding.
This will reduce funding from December 2016 to March 2017 by 12% on current levels, to £2.687bn and reduce funding for 2017-18 by 7.4% on current levels, to setting funding at £2.592bn for that year.
This is £113m less than expected from December 2016 to March 2017 and £208m less the following year.
What does RPS think about the funding proposals?
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.
What happens next?
Following the October announcements the Department of Health may propose a revised package, or may impose their proposed funding changes on England’s community pharmacies without further negotiation. The Department of Health has previously stated these changes must come into effect by 1st Dec 2016.
Are any other changes being proposed?
Yes the Department of Health have proposed other changes to the community pharmacy framework including A Pharmacy Access Scheme This scheme is designed to protect patient access to pharmacies that may otherwise not be viable under the new funding proposals.
What does the RPS think of the pharmacy access scheme?
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 need certainty around which pharmacies will receive support from the Pharmacy Access Fund before the scheme is implemented.
What has happened to the Pharmacy Integration fund?
In December 2015 the Department said it would introduce a new Pharmacy Integration Fund (PhIF) to help transform how pharmacists, their teams and community pharmacy will operate in the NHS and that the proposal for year one of the PhIF will be to focus particularly on the key enablers to achieve integration of community pharmacy’.
The fund, was expected to be worth £20m in 2016 rising to a total of £300m by 2020-21, and was intended to help pharmacists and their teams to be fully incorporated across NHS planning and service delivery. There is no mention of the pharmacy integration fund in either the October 2016 PSNC letter or DH announcement.
What is the RPS view on the pharmacy integration fund?
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.
More changes around phasing out of the establishment fee and introducing a “single activity payment” for dispensing alongside change to the drug tariff have also been proposed. You can find more detail about these changes in the letter from the PSNC to the Department of Health.
Changes to community pharmacy in 2016/2017 and beyond
In a letter to the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) in December 2015, the Department of Health and NHS England announced there would be a 6% reduction in funding through the community pharmacy contractual framework.
We recognise that this reduction in funding will have a substantial impact on pharmacy business owners, their employees and locums. This is a worrying time for many of our members, who are concerned about what these reforms might mean for their future and that of their profession.
We believe it is our role as your professional body to ensure that as many pharmacists as possible are able to make the transition from the current arrangements to a future that will put pharmacists at the heart of patient care.
We will be working hard to influence the consultation process ahead. We are setting our aims high to improve patient care through better access to high quality care, advice and access to medicines through pharmacy, and creating additional jobs for pharmacists in the NHS.
Hear from English Pharmacy Board Chair, Sandra Gidley, discussing the community pharmacy reforms, our response and next steps in this short video: