NHS England’s Call to Action on community pharmacy is going to be extremely important. Here, Alastair Buxton, PSNC Head of NHS Services, answers your key questions

Is the Call to Action really all that important?

A In short, yes. You only need to look at who has launched the Call to Action (CTA) on community pharmacy to understand why it is so important for the future. NHS England is now the commissioner of pharmaceutical services, which means it will be agreeing and funding pharmacy’s contractual framework, covering everything from dispensing to the New Medicine Service, from now on. It’s Call to Action is designed to inform their developing primary care strategy, which will set out how healthcare should be delivered in the future. If comprehensive pharmaceutical services do not form a part of that strategy, then they’re not going to be commissioned, so it really is vital that we ensure that the services we want to deliver make it into the plan.

Q Will it make any difference in the long run?

A If NHS England is going to make pharmacy a core part of its future health service we need to make a persuasive case for that in our responses to the CTA. We have the evidence for what pharmacy can do, and there is a whole raft of people from LPCs to national pharmacy organisations out there already working on doing this – if we can make it work, then I think we have every reason to be optimistic about the results.

Q So what do I need to do moving forward?

A At PSNC we have been helping to support the CTA responses in a number of ways, one of which has been to hold events with LPCs to help them to think about the CTA and to construct their responses to it. A key concern for some LPCs has been the need to involve all pharmacies in their work, and this is where you come in. You will already have read by now about how you can access the CTA and respond yourself, but perhaps the best way to engage will be through your LPC. They may well be running an event in the next few weeks, so try and go along to it if you can and hear what they have to say. That way, you can decide for yourself how important this Call to Action really is.

Q What should I be thinking about?

A The CTA is all about the future, so of course, pharmacies need to think about what they would like to be doing in the future. While it might seem attractive to simply ask for money for dispensing, we also need to recognise that the NHS could look to find cheaper ways of supplying medicines, for example using automated systems, so we need to think about what we can offer to complement the supply function that would make our offering the most valuable to patients and the NHS.

Q What sort of things could I contribute?

A One of the points we have been stressing at our LPC events has been the need to get people from outside pharmacy involved in the CTA. Of course community pharmacy needs to make a persuasive case to NHS England about what we can and should deliver in the future, but that will only be truly compelling if we are backed up by others. We need commissioners, GPs, patient groups and communities to tell NHS England what they would like pharmacies to do for them and to persuade them that our ideas are the right way forward. Pharmacies’ help will be vital for this. If you can think about all those times you have worked closely with a GP, or a charity, or even a local school or business who might be willing to say positive things about pharmacy, and let your LPC know about it, that could make a really big difference.

Article published in P3 in February 2014

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