Investment in community pharmacy will be part of measures for primary care “so people don’t need to go to hospital,” the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, said in his first speech outlining his priorities for the health and social care system.
Workforce, technology and prevention of ill health will be three key areas of focus, he said, with measures for prevention and technology “mission critical”.
A holistic approach to prevention is needed, he stressed, including a reduction of the “over-prescription of unsophisticated drugs” in favour of approaches to address physical and mental wellbeing, and the empowerment of the public to help “keep themselves more healthy at home”.
New technology must save time and offer better care and should be fully embraced by the health system, he said. For example, the NHS is already working with Amazon to link NHS Choices health information with the voice-activated device Alexa.
“Tech transformation is coming,” and suppliers to the NHS who “drag their feet or threaten to stand in the way won’t be suppliers for long,” he commented.
He announced £0.5 billion funding to “jump-start” the rollout of innovative technology in health and care.
Acknowledging that pressures in the NHS have “ramped up year on year”, he said it was “heart-breaking” to see how undervalued healthcare staff often feel. “I am determined that the commitment you show to your patients is matched by the commitment we show to you.”
A consultation on workforce issues within the NHS is planned, and a green paper on social care will be released in the autumn.
Responding to the speech, PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes welcomed the comment and looked forward to future discussions to make “this shared vision” a reality.
"We are pleased to hear the new Secretary of State acknowledging the need for investment in community pharmacies so that they can do more to help ease pressure on hospitals. This is in line with PSNC's ambitions – pharmacies are ideally placed to help people to stay healthy and avoid visits to hospital. We look forward to working with Government to make this shared vision a reality for the benefit of patients and the NHS," he said.
Chair of the English pharmacy board Sandra Gidley agreed that pharmacists should play a strategic role in “shaping and delivering” NHS plans.
"We welcome the Minister's commitment to investing in community pharmacy as a key part of primary care, to support prevention and keep people healthy and out of hospital. We look forward to seeing further details and working with the Department of Health and NHS England on what this will mean for pharmacists.
"With the Secretary of State's additional focus on prescribing, pharmacists must play a strategic role in shaping and delivering NHS plans for the future to ensure patients are able to get the most from their medicines," she commented.