We must better appreciate pharmacy teams’ skills, says pharmacy minister
Writing exclusively for P3pharmacy, parliamentary under secretary of state for primary care and public health Neil O’Brien MP reflects on the value of England’s community pharmacies and sets out the Government’s plans for services, supervision legislation and freeing up capacity.
I know how passionate all those working in pharmacies are about caring for people and I recognise their skills have historically been underused and underappreciated.
From degree-qualified pharmacists and their lifelong training to pharmacy technicians whose knowledge and experience pharmacies could not do without, to the healthcare assistants providing advice on the counter. They want to do more and need the support to do it.
That is why this government previously announced an additional up to £645 million of funding and we will soon be launching a consultation to make sure we are helping people to fulfil their potential and increase the services pharmacies can provide.
This consultation will look at extending the use of patient group directions – a written instruction which allows healthcare professionals to supply or administer medicines – making it easier for patients to access those medicines.
This week NHS England also announced a new NHS-funded training offer to improve patient access by developing the clinical role of pharmacy technicians and, next, we will look at modernising legislation so a pharmacist no longer has to directly supervise all the activities carried out by pharmacy technicians who are health professionals in their own right.
This will help technicians to run dispensaries and use their skills and training, freeing up pharmacists for the additional clinical services required.
The need for pharmacists to sign off on medication that’s already checked will also be updated so trained members of the pharmacist team can hand it out to patients.
Our primary care system, the gateway to healthcare, will work best when people are seen in the right place at the right time, by the right people.
That is what our Primary Care Recovery Plan is designed to deliver and why the role of the pharmacy sector is so vital.
Work is also continuing on making the necessary changes to ensure patients who need prescription medication for seven common conditions can receive it without the need for a GP appointment.
Almost half a million women will no longer need to speak to a practice nurse or GP to access oral contraception and will instead be able to pop into their local pharmacy for it while tens of thousands more people will be at lower risk of a heart attack or stroke, with the NHS more than doubling the number of people able to access blood pressure checks in their local pharmacy.
The actions set out in our Primary Care Recovery Plan are expected to free up around 15 million GP appointments over the next two years for patients who need them most and the investment will help pharmacies to provide these services.
I want to thank all those working in pharmacies and I recognise what they have to offer going forward, that’s why we’re taking these steps.