Leading representative bodies in community pharmacy have made fresh calls for the sector to be given increased responsibilities in order to help patients and relieve pressure on other health services.
A newly launched campaign from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) highlights the role pharmacists across England, Scotland and Wales can play in preventing, identifying, treating and supporting long-term conditions, while PSNC has requested that the Department of Health use savings from the budget cuts to fund a national pharmacy minor ailments service.
With a third of people in Great Britain affected by at least one long-term condition, the RPS is arguing that as the third largest health profession in the UK, “the skills and expertise of pharmacists must be maximised within the multidisciplinary team to provide the best care for patients.” The RPS has four key calls to action to make greater pharmacist involvement in the care of long-term conditions a reality:
RPS England chair Sandra Gidley described the campaign as an opportunity to reframe the debate on community pharmacy’s role in the face of funding cuts. She spoke of the importance of support from all involved in policy decisions: “The new role for community pharmacists, supporting people with long-term conditions within the heart of the NHS, needs buy-in from those across Government and the NHS as well as those who own and work in pharmacies”, going on to say the RPS would be “working hard to make sure those in positions of influence and power both agree with our view and put in place the necessary resources to make our policy recommendations happen”.
Meanwhile, PSNC chief executive Sue Sharpe has called for the creation of a national pharmacy minor ailments service in England, to be funded from cuts to the community pharmacy budget. Sharpe said that such a service has been a goal of the organisation for many years, claiming it could make “significant savings for the NHS by ensuring that patients use pharmacies as their first port of call, preventing unnecessary GP appointments and A&E attendances.”
While the Department of Health pledged its support for a minor ailments service in the House of Commons this October, no funding has been made available to roll this out nationally; instead, local commissioners are ‘encouraged’ to develop and fund these services.
PSNC said that the DH “now has the opportunity and the means to commission a cost-effective, proven, capacity-releasing service that will keep patients well and away from GP surgeries or hospitals. The £200 million of funding cut from the community pharmacy budget could fund such a service.”