Community pharmacies are being overlooked in the development of sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) despite trying hard to get a seat at the table, a survey has shown.
In research carried out by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and Pharmacy Voice, only 10% of Local Pharmaceutical Committees (LPCs) said they had high levels of involvement, and a third said they had no opportunity to take part in the development of the 44 STPs in England. A total of 83% of LPCs responded to the survey, which also asked them to rate involvement on a five point scale on other new models of care and access initiatives.
On STPs, only 5% scored themselves at five for having high levels of involvement in the scheme with a further 5% rating themselves at four.
For social and health care devolution plans, half of LPCs said they had not had any involvement.
The same pattern was seen when asked about the chance to engage with the prime minister’s GP access fund.
On average, 42% said they had no involvement when the five schemes covered by the survey were included together.
In March 2017, the RPS wrote to all 44 STP leads emphasising the urgent need for pharmacist involvement.
Heidi Wright, English practice and policy lead at the RPS, confirmed the Society would be sending out a second letter in the wake of the latest findings to reiterate the importance of working with pharmacy.
But she said it was important to point out that the survey did reveal some examples of “very good collaboration” with pharmacy.
“There are some areas where this is happening, and STPs are still finding their feet, and it is very variable across the country.” STPs, prepared by multidisciplinary NHS teams working with local authorities and social care providers, aim to reflect the needs of their local population and find ways to tackle the looming £22bn funding deficit.
A report based on the latest survey figures said the results reflect “anecdotal feedback received by the pharmacy organisations during 2016, which suggested that fruitful relationships between community pharmacy representatives and those leading STPs and new care models were far from widespread”.
“This most recent experience reflects longer-standing frustrations about the under-representation of the sector within local commissioning and decision-making structures, and about the tendency for the NHS to view all primary care provision through a GP lens,” the report said.
The most common remark made by respondents was that pharmacy was often overlooked.
“In some cases, this meant that community pharmacy leaders were struggling to gain any access at all to people and groups responsible for, or influential in, planning and decision-making.
“In other cases, access was secured, but the impact of any involvement was limited.”
The report concluded that community pharmacy organisations must continue to promote the value of the sector and be consistent.
A PSNC spokesperson said they were working closely with LPCs to support their work to engage with evolving care systems.
“This includes the provision of guidance, training and resources but also the facilitation of best practice sharing, both at events and via discussions forums.
“Our recent webinar gave LPCs another opportunity to share experiences of working with STPs and to discuss both positive and negative examples.”
“In our wider influencing work with the other community pharmacy bodies, we will continue to work to ensure that all relevant stakeholders, including STPs, understand the value and the potential of the community pharmacy sector.”