It is welcome that the Government has agreed to frontload and increase investment in the NHS. However, with the continuing uphill struggle to meet the £22bn funding gap, the pressures on the healthcare system to cut costs still weigh heavy.
Funding for all providers of NHS services will be subject to scrutiny over the coming months in the search for greater efficiencies. The community pharmacy sector recognises it has a role to play in helping the health service deliver better value and outcomes, in line with the Five Year Forward View. Through these challenging times we call on policymakers to recognise the efficiencies that the 11,764 small, medium, and large businesses that make up the community pharmacy network and their combined workforce of over 80,000 people, already bring to the health system, and the huge potential to do more. With the right changes to policy and practice, community pharmacy teams could help to radically improve the value and effectiveness of the medicines that are paid for by the NHS and reduce demand for higher cost services. This will help to safeguard a sustainable NHS and importantly, improve patient outcomes and experience.
Integration and devolution
The spending review reiterated the Government’s commitment to a devolution revolution and to further integration of health and social care. The core services provided by community pharmacy are commissioned through a national contract which has delivered huge efficiencies to the NHS, ensured the safety of the medicines supply function and maintained equity of access to pharmacy services across the country. It is vital we ensure new approaches to planning and delivering services at a local level build on and take advantage of the strengths of this framework, and that pharmacy teams are fully involved in developing new models of care. Pharmacy Voice will continue to support those community pharmacy leaders across the country who are already working in partnership with local colleagues to help transform health and care systems. We will help to share learning from early examples such as Manchester, and to ensure community pharmacy is front of mind wherever health and social care systems are being reformed. We will also monitor the proposed changes to business rates and the removal of the £1,500 high street retail discount for the possible impacts that this will have on our members.
We are extremely concerned about the proposed cuts to public health budgets. This would reduce access to services such as stop smoking, alcohol, and weight management – services which are essential if we are to improve disease-prevention and population health outcomes. Fundamentally, without investing in prevention we are simply storing up greater costs to impact on the health system further down the line. If the Government genuinely supports the Five Year Forward View, cuts to public health services would contradict this; the document was very clear on the urgency of radically upgrading prevention in public health.
Investment in technology
We welcome the Government’s commitment to greater investment in new technology for the health system, and secure access to patient records. We reiterate our call for pharmacy teams’ access to summary care records to include read and write access, which we believe will create safer and more integrated care.
Pharmacy Voice has produced a more detailed briefing summary which provides further information on the announcements made in the Government’s Spending Review.
To access this briefing: please click here