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APPG report calls for better recognition and more funding of pharmacy

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APPG report calls for better recognition and more funding of pharmacy

By Neil Trainis

A report published today by the All-Party Pharmacy Group urges the government to make more use of community pharmacies, urgently provide them with better funding so they can help alleviate pressures on other parts of the NHS and support them to address workforce issues by ensuring they are fully resourced.

The report, based on the findings of an APPG inquiry into the future of community pharmacy, called on Number 10 to immediately put in place a fully funded Pharmacy First service in England just as Scotland and Wales have done and urged the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England to “actively consider commissioning additional community pharmacy services that recognise and make better use of pharmacists’ clinical skills.”

The APPG also prompted the government to ensure current and newly commissioned services are “appropriately funded” to take the financial strain off pharmacies so they can carry on operating and regional commissioning of services retain “some degree of standardisation so patients are not subject to postcode lotteries of provision.”

Other recommendations include an urgent evaluation of the current and long-term community pharmacy workforce by the DHSC and NHSE, ensuring the NHS produces a plan clearly outlining the commissioning of pharmacy services and making sure funding is there so all pharmacists can train as independent prescribers if they wish.

The report addressed longstanding concerns that community pharmacy’s “clinical value” has been “underestimated” and that the sector has long been treated separately from the wider NHS machine.” As a result, the report said, the value pharmacy teams bring to the health system continues to be “under-utilised, under-resourced and, in some cases, wasted” and the sector is often regarded to be “an afterthought when it comes to major issues such as workforce.”

Calling for much greater involvement of community pharmacy when it comes to decision-making and policy development, the APPG insisted NHSE must “produce robust guidance” detailing how pharmacies will be consulted on plans developed by Integrated Care Boards.

In terms of existing services, the report said that although the community pharmacist consultation service was a “step in the right direction,” it was being hindered by bureaucracy and red tape. Referrals, it said, are taking too much time to process and pharmacies are also struggling to access patient data and interoperability to allow them to record information and share it with other clinicians.

The former chair of the British Medical Association’s GP committee Richard Vautrey described the CPCS as “a complex mess” and called on the government to review it in an interview last year with Independent Community Pharmacist.

“There is a tremendous opportunity for ministers to empower local pharmacies and pharmacy teams to help even more patients and use their skills to support efforts to clear NHS backlogs,” said APPG chair Taiwo Owatemi.

“But right now, pharmacies are being squeezed by a combination of funding and workforce pressures. People are often shocked to learn how many local pharmacies are lost each year due to financial pressure. If ever there was a time to properly fund and support our pharmacies it is now.”

English Pharmacy Board chair Thorrun Govind said the report highlighted “the need to support a more ambitious approach to advancing the clinical role of pharmacists across the NHS to enhance patient care.”

"Pharmacists and pharmacy teams will play a crucial role in supporting the NHS recovery, reducing health inequalities, managing the growing cost of long-term conditions, and delivering best value from medicines,” she said.

“With continued pressure on the health service, it is vital that the pharmacy workforce is supported to keep looking after patients.”

The National Pharmacy Association chief executive Mark Lyonette said the report was evidence of "strong support in parliament for pharmacies."

"A growing number of MPs and peers understand that decent funding is vital to sustain the community pharmacy network and enable an expanded role within the NHS. The solutions the sector is offering to help the NHS get back on its feet cannot come for free, as this cross-party report explicitly recognises," he said.

"The group is also right to pick out workforce planning as key to progress. When community pharmacy becomes a first-thought not an after-thought of workforce planners, NHS capacity will have more hope of keeping up with the ever-increasing demands of our aging population." 

 

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