A report by the NHS Confederation, Primary Care Pharmacy Association and National Pharmacy Association published today has laid out a series of recommendations to ensure there is greater scope for collaboration between community pharmacy, primary care networks and integrated care systems.
The report seeks to pre-empt the challenges pharmacies may face trying to establish influence within ICSs, and in particular integrated care boards, which are set to take over the commissioning of primary care services including pharmacy.
Pharmacy leaders have warned that ICSs, which form the backbone of the latest health reforms under the Health and Care Bill which is making its way through parliament, are currently too GP-centric and offer little capacity for other parts of the NHS to have a voice on ICBs.
The report calls for community pharmacists to be given “time and space” to develop local services alongside other primary care providers and for pharmacy and general practice to put competitive tensions to one side and work together.
It wants service developments to be “translated into a national contract specification for local adoption,” national services to be adequately funded and ICSs to support nationally specified services by involving community pharmacy “in decision-making at all levels".
The report also wants to see the creation of an information technology and information governance framework to facilitate the sharing of data to help develop local services and put in place national services, as well as a legal framework that would recognise pharmacists’ roles as independent prescribers and solve issues over conflict of interest.
NPA chair Andrew Lane said the report highlighted that community pharmacists “are not a voice in the wilderness within the NHS.”
“The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a bright light on the value of working collaboratively across systems,” he said.
“Community pharmacy can deliver most as an integral part of the system rather than being seen as an adjunct to the main action. The sector has an important role to play as a full partner within PCNs, with primary care federations and integrated care systems.
“Medicines safety and optimisation is widely recognised as part of pharmacy’s unique skill set but increasingly community pharmacy will collaborate with partners in primary care to deliver integrated clinical services to the population.”
Dr Graham Jackson, a senior clinical advisor at the NHS Confederation, urged the clinical directors of PCNs and heads of primary care federations to support community pharmacists “to navigate the emerging NHS structures and thoroughly consider what pharmacies can bring to the table in terms of urgent care, public health, medicines optimisation and more.”
The report is the result of talks in July between PCNs, primary care federations and other local stakeholders.