An integration fund, proposed as part of the government’s plans for the community pharmacy sector, should be used to ensure better access to pharmacists’ expertise across all care settings, according to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS). The pharmacy integration fund, which will amount to £20m in 2016, rising to £300m by 2020–21, must not be used to prop up initiatives where funds are already available through existing sources, the RPS says.
In an additional response to the Department of Health’s ‘Community pharmacy in 2016/17 and beyond’ consultation, the RPS argues that the pharmacy integration fund should act as ‘pharmacy’s own vanguard scheme’ and that the money should be used to integrate community pharmacists into local care models, as set out in NHS England’s five year forward view (FYFV).
“The fund should only be available to support changes which integrate pharmacists into health systems to benefit patients,” says Sandra Gidley, chair of the RPS English Pharmacy Board. “By 2021 we should be able to see demonstrable change brought about by the fund.”
She says these changes should include having pharmacists as the first contact point for urgent and emergency care, having pharmacists as an integral part of supporting patients with stable long-term conditions and ensuring further new roles for pharmacists across the healthcare network, such as in care homes.
The RPS also emphasises the importance of developing a robust IT infrastructure and enabling pharmacists to have read and write access to patient records, but says such changes should be supported through other funding streams.
In its response to the DH’s proposals, the RPS offers to provide ‘clinical leadership’ to help distribute the fund appropriately. It also recommends that an ‘oversight group’ comprising key stakeholders, including the RPS, Department of Health, NHS England, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee and Pharmacy Voice, should be formed to make decisions about the distribution of the fund.
The RPS response follows recent discussions at an All-Party Pharmacy Group event at Westminster on 16 March 2016 where chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge suggested that the integration fund would be used to fund postgraduate pharmacy training.
“I am concerned about the suggestion that more training will be involved,” said Gidley after the event, describing the fund as “potentially one of the most important things to have happened in the world of community pharmacy”.
“Pharmacists are ready, willing and waiting to embrace new roles and it is, quite frankly, insulting to suggest that we always need new training,” she added.