UK chancellor Philip Hammond’s 2017 budget announcement on 8 March 2017 — which allocated £325m to sustainability and transformation plans (STPs), as well as £100m to hospital A&E departments — has prompted Robbie Turner, director for England at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), to write to all STP leads encouraging them to fully integrate pharmacists into their activities.
“We have written to all STP leads to emphasise the strategic benefits of including pharmacy,” says Turner, “not least because medicines are one of the biggest investments in any STP budget.”
Every area in England has been placed within one of 44 local ‘footprints’, each of which has developed a STP under the leadership of a named individual. The STPs, prepared by multidisciplinary NHS teams working with local authorities and social care providers, have been developed to focus on the needs of their local population.
The plans aim to streamline care services and improve overall health in the local area, while maintaining “sustainable finances” for the NHS. They cover all aspects of NHS spending in England up to March 2021.
Turner’s letter, sent on 10 March 2017, makes the point that medicines are the most common healthcare intervention in every STP and that pharmacists — as experts in the use of medicines — are invaluable in helping STPs to manage their costs and improve quality of care.
His case for pharmacist involvement is supported with real-world examples, such as those detailed in the ‘General practice forward view’, which was published in April 2016 and aims to place 1,500 additional pharmacists into GP surgeries by 2021.
Turner’s letter also highlights a case in Ealing, west London, detailing a practice of ten GPs in which the employment of an independent prescribing pharmacist released an average of ten GP hours each day. That equates to a potential saving of £4,000 per week.
Other examples highlighted include: giving pharmacists overall responsibility for medicines use in care homes, to help reduce the number of unnecessary prescriptions given to residents; expanding the adoption of the minor ailment service (in which eligible people can receive care and medication from a pharmacist without needing to see their GP first); and including pharmacists in referral pathways, so that patients are offered follow-up consultations from their community pharmacist after their care is transferred (after patient is discharged from hospital, for example).
“For STPs to be truly transformational, they need to include pharmacists as part of their delivery plans,” says Turner, adding that he hopes STP leads will be inspired by the examples in his letter.
The need for pharmacists to be part of multidisciplinary teams, such as those delivering STPs, has also been raised by Sandra Gidley, chair of the RPS English Pharmacy Board, in an opinion piece published in The Pharmaceutical Journal in January 2017.