Sue Sharpe gives her views on issues across pharmacy...

The costs of EPS dispensing

This year we’ve seen a massive roll out of EPS by GP practices. While this has some benefits for contractors, there is universal reporting that EPS dispensing adds time the process. There are a number of reasons why this is the case, and the theoretical time savings that HSCIC calculate are just not borne out in practice, partly because of the burden of printing paper is largely transferred from GPs to pharmacies. There may be some aspects that can be sorted by addressing the process requirements, but as we are seeing a massive ramp up for use of the system we do need to see that we capture and get agreed costs, and see that these are recognised in future funding. When I’ve talked to LPCs, groups of contractors and individual large chains, all have been adamant that there is a significant additional cost.’

The EPS study process

‘We plan to get the costs by the end of the year, and I expect that this will feed into the negotiations for 16/17. We already have a model from a study undertaken by two of the large multiples as a starting point, and the next step will be to agree the methodology with NHS England.’

Urgent supply of medicines

‘Pharmacies undertook an audit of urgent supply over Easter, and we are still awaiting the results of that. I’m hoping that will lead to a good case for using pharmacies to meet urgent supply needs, because we know that a significant number of out of hours GP requests at weekends are for people who’ve run out of routine medication. There are already local examples of pharmacies providing these services, which reduce the cost of an out of hours GP consultation, which can easily be £60 or so.’

Local commissioning

There are some very good examples of local schemes and local service developments, but I am very frustrated by the lack of spread of the many really good, well-documented pharmacy services. It appears that however good the evidence, the barriers to well-documented services being picked up are quite formidable. Having said that, the flu service succeeded, probably because we had some important advocates for it.’

Practice pharmacists

‘Practice pharmacists working in general practice is I think an interesting development. On the plus side it should really help GPs understand the skills and the professionalism of the pharmacist and I’m expecting that the local community pharmacy network will establish good working relationships with them, so they can act as a bridge to make sure that we work together as a team. What’s really important is that these practice pharmacists do not replicate or take over the services that community pharmacists already offer, because the walk-in accessibility and existing relationships that community pharmacists have are vital to supporting patients.’

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