Health boards in Wales may be required to conduct pharmaceutical needs assessments (PNAs) from 1 April 2020.
A consultation from the Welsh government, launched on 30 September 2019, will gather views on amending the National Health Service (Pharmaceutical Services) (Wales) Regulations to introduce the requirement for each health board to conduct and publish a PNA for its area and determine applications to provide NHS pharmaceutical services against that assessment.
The consultation document says the assessments will be used to identify where additional pharmacies are required; where existing providers are adequately addressing pharmaceutical needs; and where additional services are required from existing pharmacies.
The government describes it as “a fundamental change” to the way in which decisions about pharmaceutical services in Wales are made by health boards, “shifting from one driven by applications from pharmacy contractors and focused heavily on the dispensing of prescriptions, to one which is alert and responsive to the broader pharmaceutical needs of local communities”.
Suzanne Scott-Thomas, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Welsh Pharmacy Board (WPB), welcomed the proposal. “We have long held the view that, through a greater understanding of population needs, PNAs have the potential to improve the planning and delivery of pharmaceutical services to meet the greatest need, improve equity of access to services and ultimately help reduce inequalities in health.”
A spokesperson from Community Pharmacy Wales said the development and implementation of PNAs would place community pharmacies as “key enablers of health improvement”, but added that they were “mindful” that changes to regulations affecting control of entry had the potential to have a “profound impact” on existing pharmacy businesses and the livelihood of the pharmacy owners.
“There is a responsibility on the health boards to ensure that PNAs are drawn up with a degree of rigour and with the necessary investment in resources. CPW also believes there should be national standards and guidelines in relation to the creation and publication of PNAs, to ensure consistency in development and application,” they said.
Legislation to introduce PNAs in Wales has been previously proposed but was rejected by the Welsh Assembly in March 2016. At the time, the RPS WPB said it was concerned that the healthcare needs of the people of Wales were not being prioritised and called for the decision to be reconsidered.
There are currently more than 700 community pharmacies providing NHS services in Wales.