Following today’s release of NHS England’s plans for a Pharmacy Integration Fund, Pharmacy Voice is responding with the demand that community pharmacy leaders are at the heart of further work to define the future of the sector, and to determine how the Fund is best used to achieve it. The announcement builds on the proposals initially put forward in December, but does highlight a regrettable reduction in the size of the Fund across 2016/17 and 2017/18 from £60m to £42m.
Rob Darracott, Chief Executive of Pharmacy Voice, outlined his initial reaction to this most recent announcement:
“While the lack of detail about how these proposals will translate into tangible opportunities for community pharmacies is disappointing, perhaps this time, it is the sector that is perfectly placed to fill in the gaps. We have already set out our collected ambitions for the future in the Community Pharmacy Forward View, which was published jointly with PSNC and with the support of the RPS English Pharmacy Board. We have repeatedly offered to work in partnership with NHS England to establish a collaborative approach to sustainable change that would benefit patients, the NHS and community pharmacy teams. The offer has not yet been taken up.
“There is no shortage of ideas and live examples of how the sector can fulfil its true potential for patients and the public. We understand where the challenges are, particularly around commissioning, and we recognise the importance of delivery. In our experience, pharmacy is usually on the outside, which significantly hampers our ability to effectively demonstrate our capability. We want to work with the NHS, local governments, and those leading the transformation of the system at NHS England to scale up what we already know is working, and incorporating the areas recommended by the Clinical Services Review for investment in the community pharmacy service for patients. And if this is about integration, then those in NHS England leading the work programmes for urgent care and enhancing health in care homes, for example, must be fully engaged.
“We want the NHS to put aside the rhetoric, to stop talking about the ‘potential’ of community pharmacy, and put its energy, commitment and – ultimately – its money where its mouth is. If, as the Minister and NHS England claim, the Integration Fund represents the opening of a door to discussions that are long overdue, such as commissioning of long term conditions management, urgent care and public health services by the community pharmacy network, then we are ready to expand on the initial thinking in the Community Pharmacy Forward View to transform these half-formed proposals into a watershed moment for the sector.
“In particular, we will need robust, sincere and tangible commitments from NHS England to support new and meaningful ways of joint working that will convince our members and their pharmacy teams that the NHS is serious about maintaining a sustainable community pharmacy network that can deliver better outcomes for patients, and is forward looking and future proof. We therefore call upon NHS England, again, to work with the community pharmacy sector, in a real partnership, not just as a stakeholder, to turn the warm words of Ministers, into a reality our colleagues can not only buy into, but actively embrace.”