Mr Brine was responding to All Party Pharmacy Group chair Kevin Barron MP to follow up on questions raised at a meeting relating to the Pharmacy Integration Fund and other issues such as access to primary care records.
Mr Brine thanked Mr Barron for a “constructive session” and said he recognised “we have more work to do to really tap into the potential of community pharmacy”. The PhIF has “resulted in significant progress on initial programmes to deploy pharmacists in wider primary care settings,” Mr Brine said, adding that hundreds of pharmacy professionals would have access to training and development programmes from 2018 onwards.
However, Mr Barron said the APPG still has concerns, commenting: “On the Pharmacy Integration Fund, there is still no clarity over how much has been spent so far in this financial year, and only £2 million of the total of £42 million allocated for 2016-18 was spent last year. We also don’t yet have an indication of the PhIF budget for next year, which is only four months away.
“We therefore continue to have questions about how this Fund is being and will be used, and the extent to which it can provide meaningful impetus for new services which we all agree that we wish to see community pharmacy provide.”
RPS England chair Sandra Gidley said: “This news is deeply disappointing and it is of great concern that no one appears to know how public money is being spent – or not spent.
“I believe Steve Brine when he says he wants to reset the relationship with community pharmacy and if he is serious about this he must demand specific answers to the questions he was asked. We already know what, in principle, the Integration Fund has been spent on but we do not know the precise amounts. The politicians at the All-Party group wanted to know how much of the fund has been spent and that information simply has not been provided.
“I would urge the minister not to accept excuses from his officials and hope that he presses to obtain the information we all very much [wish] to see. We have already seen an erosion of the fund and recent events raise questions about how secure funding is for next year. The profession needs urgent reassurance on this.”
Primary care records
Mr Brine’s letter also expressed support for plans for full read and write access to patient primary care records for pharmacies, saying he “would like to have it happen as soon as possible”. He cited challenges such as the completion of standardised datasets and said he expects a roadmap to be available “in the near future”.
Mr Barron said the APPG was “encouraged by the minister’s personal commitment to making these happen and we are keen to see the roadmap as soon as possible. He added: “These developments will enhance patient care, increase joined-up working between pharmacy and other parts of primary and secondary care, and improve safety. They are much needed.”