Social care should be considered when deciding where pharmacies are sited, says RPS Wales

Current decisions on where pharmacies are needed are based purely on access to prescriptions, without consideration for the wider services that pharmacies provide.

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Pharmaceutical needs assessments (PNAs) in Wales should include an assessment of local populations’ social care requirements, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Wales has said.

The Society set out its view in response to a Welsh government consultation on whether health boards should be required to conduct PNAs, which help to decide where pharmacies are needed, under an amendment to the National Health Service (Pharmaceutical Services)(Wales) Regulations 2020.

“Pharmaceutical services are increasingly becoming an important part of the social care agenda”, the RPS said, and so recommended that social care needs assessments, undertaken by Regional Partnership Boards, are included in the PNA process “to ensure a robust evaluation of population need”.

Although RPS Wales supports the introduction of PNAs, it expressed concern about the short timescale proposed for their introduction. If passed, the amended regulation would come into force on 1 April 2020, and health boards would have to complete PNAs within six months after that date. The Society noted that the timescale for introducing PNAs in England was 12 months and recommended that Wales is given the same amount of time. Otherwise, it said, there is a risk of “rushed and suboptimal PNAs which could have a negative impact on pharmaceutical service provision and access to services”.

Applications for new pharmacies are, at present, considered in light of whether they would give the local population easier access to prescriptions. But, in the consultation document, the government points out that community pharmacies increasingly provide additional services, including emergency contraception, flu vaccines and smoking cessation.

Basing decisions purely on access to prescriptions, it said, fails to take into account that existing pharmacies may not provide the local population with all of those additional services.

Under the proposed amendment, health boards would assess the local population’s pharmaceutical needs and identify locations where new pharmacies are needed, and where existing pharmacies could provide additional services. This, the Welsh government said, would help pharmacies to be “more responsive to the needs of the populations they serve”.

Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) said it was “generally supportive” of the proposals, but warned against “overenthusiastic application” of the new regulations.

“An intervention in the market of this magnitude is a serious decision that can affect the market value of community pharmacies and the livelihood of a number of contractors”, it said. Consequently, CPW asked for assurance that PNAs will be “robust and evidence based and … formulated at a senior level within the health board”.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, December 2019, Vol 303, No 7932;303(7932):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20207402

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