The chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board has called on NHS England to help ease pressures on the health service by funding pharmacists to introduce innovative schemes that improve treatment for patients.
Speaking at a Westminster Health Forum seminar entitled “What now for pharmacy services?” on 16 January 2018, Sandra Gidley, said that pharmacists had demonstrated that they could improve patient care and cut admissions to hospital.
She said pharmacy-based schemes had a proven track record of improving NHS care, and with money from a currently underspent Pharmacy Integration Fund available, the opportunity was there, to roll out successful pharmacy schemes to a wider audience.
“Pharmacy has been accused of having no evidence base, but we do have the evidence, we potentially have spare money in the integration fund, so why is NHS England not joining the dots, and using the third largest profession to deliver healthcare at a time when the NHS is really struggling?” she asked.
Citing two examples in the north of England: a scheme in Lancashire, which provides around 75 patients a day with a bespoke appointment with their local community pharmacist on discharge from hospital; and a similar programme for patients leaving hospitals run by the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust, Gidley said both schemes have been shown to reduce hospital re-admission rates and improve medicines compliance.
“We have schemes that work and that have a proven track record,” she said.
“Introducing more of these schemes will help reduce winter pressures and keep people out of hospital, so what is holding NHS England back?”
The Pharmacy Integration Fund was introduced at the time of cuts to the community pharmacy budget in 2016–2017 to support the development of clinical pharmacy practice, resulting in a more integrated primary care pathway.
In October 2016, NHS England announced that it would spend £42m through the fund between 2016 and 2018, but in a letter to the All Party Pharmacy Group sent in December 2017, Brine revealed that the estimated spend by the fund at that point was just £18.5m.
Figures from Brine’s letter to the APPG show that just £216,305 was actually spent in 2017, but he said he remained “excited by, and committed to” the fund’s work.
Gidley said: “It is time to stop diminishing the role of community pharmacists, it is time to invest in pharmacy services with a proven track record and it is time for NHS England to truly support the profession.”