Three new facilities in Wales will replace “some but not all” of the aseptic pharmacy services currently running in hospitals, the Welsh government has said.
The centralised facilities, which ministers have described as the first of their kind in the UK, form part of the government’s ‘Transforming Access to Medicines’ five-year plan and have received £67m in initial funding.
The announcement follows a ten-year plan for pharmacy in Wales that was published in May 2019, which said aseptically prepared medicines services would be “streamlined to avoid duplication and to maximise efficiencies across hospitals in Wales”.
Aseptic services are responsible for the development, preparation and supply of unique medicines, including the preparation of injectable systemic anti-cancer therapy, preparation of parenteral (intravenous) nutrition, and radio-pharmaceuticals used in diagnosis and treatment of cancers.
According to a statement from the Welsh government on 17 March 2021, advances in these medicines mean that demand for pharmacy aseptic services has been growing, with much of the work currently undertaken in hospitals across Wales.
“In order to expand services, NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership will develop business cases for the creation of three new integrated regional facilities based in North, South West and South East Wales,” the statement said.
“Whilst the exact funding required will be confirmed as the business cases are developed, an indicative funding requirement of £67m has been identified.”
It added that the facilities “will increase NHS Wales’ capacity and capability to prepare the medicines people need and will allow the NHS to capitalise on advances in technology and automation improving patient safety and freeing up nurses’ time for patient care”.
A spokesperson for the Welsh government told The Pharmaceutical Journal that the “purpose-built regional facilities will take on much of the work currently undertaken in local production units, replacing some but not all existing hospital facilities”.
A report published by the English Pharmacy Aseptic Services Transformation Board in November 2020 recommended creating regional hub and spoke services in England to increase the production of ready-to-administer injectable medicines from 3.4 million individual doses to more than 40 million per year.
Commenting on the government’s announcement, Suzanne Scott-Thomas, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Welsh Pharmacy Board, said the funding “will help us realise key parts of the vision for pharmacy that was created by the profession”.
“The announcement today will help sustain and improve pharmaceutical care for patients throughout Wales,” she said.
“It is testament to the leadership and commitment of the chief pharmacists across Wales and the chief pharmaceutical officer in imagining and committing to this transformation.”
Vaughan Gething, minister for health and social services, said the new facilities “will be the first of their kind in the UK and will deliver huge benefits, not only for existing medical treatments but also enabling development and research for new treatments”.
“The plans announced today will further support the access to innovative medicines patients in Wales have through our New Treatment Fund, and will bolster our commitment to ensure people across Wales have prompt access to the latest and best treatments.”
On 8 March 2021, the government invested an additional £16m into the New Treatment Fund, which was first established in 2017 with £80m.
According to the Welsh government, the fund has cut the average time it takes for newly recommended medicines to become available to patients by 85%, from 90 to 13 days.