Pharmacy negotiators are urging the NHS to make full use of community pharmacy to help meet winter pressures.
Responding to warnings from NHS Providers that the health service will struggle to cope with the winter months, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committeee (PSNC) says pharmacy is ‘ready and willing’ to take on a greater role.
NHS Providers, the association representing acute, community and mental health services, says £350m is needed this summer to tackle immediate problems but that longer-term strategies to solve underlying structural and capacity pressures are also required.
A report based on concerns from NHS Trusts has found unacceptable levels of patient risk last winter as growing demand outstripped NHS capacity.
In the report, ‘Managing risk in health and care this winter’, published in June 2017, NHS Providers warn that government plans to manage the ‘escalating risk’ for 2017–2018 assume that the extra £1bn invested in social care will reduce delayed transfers of care and free up around 3,000 NHS beds.
But only 28% of trusts say they have received assurances that the money will be spent in this way, the report says.
PSNC chief executive Sue Sharpe says it is no surprise that NHS Providers has concerns about winter pressures because health and social care are battling increased demand and squeezed funding.
“We support the calls for a longer-term, sustainable approach to urgent and emergency care, and for this to include the creation of packages of care to include reablement services.
Integrating community pharmacies
“We would add that any such plan must include full integration of the network of community pharmacies, who can play a key role in helping with the winter pressures faced by the health service.”
She says that pharmacist-led medicines reviews on discharge from hospital can help avoid readmission, and services helping people manage long-term conditions can also prevent people being admitted in the first place.
“A pharmacy respiratory support service could help prevent some of the 60,000 hospital admissions due to asthma and the 113,000 admissions due to COPD each year,” she says.
“The network of community pharmacies is ready, willing and able to implement some of the plans set out by NHS Providers; we hope that health leaders will take note and make full use of the sector.”
NHS Providers notes that the majority of trusts reported a lack of capacity across the board but particularly in the community, mental health and primary care.
“To manage next winter’s risk safely, the NHS needs the added capacity that the extra social care investment was intended, but is failing, to secure,” the report says.
It concludes: “Too often winter pressures have just been about acute hospital capacity. Last winter showed that ambulance, community and mental health capacity are just as important, as are primary and social care capacity.”