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Govt wants to ‘progress Pharmacy First’ says health sec Barclay


Govt wants to ‘progress Pharmacy First’ says health sec Barclay

Health secretary Steve Barclay has said his department is “looking at how we can progress Pharmacy First,” prompting speculation that a commissioned minor ailments service is once again up for discussion in England.

Addressing the NHS Providers conference in Liverpool this morning, Mr Barclay set out his priorities at the onset of what he predicted would be “one of the toughest winters in the 74-year history of the NHS”.

In addition to addressing workforce issues and slashing the Covid care backlog, Mr Barclay spoke of the need to improve primary care access and ensuring there is a “wider workforce” to draw on.

He said: “We’ll be looking at the skills mix in primary care, creating more appointments for patients, rolling out the extra phone lines, looking at how we can progress Pharmacy First.

“Exploring ways to do things differently, such as new areas like home testing, and redesigning patient pathways so that all the burden doesn’t fall on GPs.”

There has been speculation for some time that ministers in England may seek to introduce a scheme similar to Scotland’s Pharmacy First service to redirect patients away from general practice.

The PSNC’s position is that the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service, which requires patients to be referred to pharmacies via a third party, does not go far enough and that a fully funded walk-in service is needed.

In a new four-point action plan document aimed at politicians, the negotiator claims such a service could save NHS England £640m each year.

Previous health secretary Sajid Javid suggested a number of times during his tenure that a Scotland-style Pharmacy First service was his preference for English pharmacies, but this never led to concrete proposals – perhaps due to officials’ refusal to reconsider the £2.592bn annual global sum in the middle of the five-year contractual framework period.

PSNC chief Janet Morrison told Pharmacy Network News: “Pharmacy First is an idea whose time has come. PSNC put forward a proposal for a fully funded national Pharmacy First service during our negotiations earlier this year and we have since been discussing it with Ministers and officials.

“Whilst we were frustrated that the service didn’t make it into the CPCF Years 4 and 5 deal, it is promising to hear the Secretary of State is now giving this serious consideration. 

“With the right funding the service would provide sufficient capacity in pharmacies to be the first port of call for minor ailments giving patients certainty about where to go confident that they will be referred onwards if necessary. It would also help alleviate pressures on GP surgeries at a critical time.”

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