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Visions and revisions


Visions and revisions

September saw the publication of the King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust’s jointly produced 10-year ‘vision’ on the pharmacy sector, commissioned by Community Pharmacy England. What to make of the long-awaited report?

Top-line recommendations include greater investment in data and IT, incentivised collaboration with other primary care providers and overhauling supervision legislation.

At the back of this issue, Outsider takes a jaded view of the vision, writing that there “is barely anything new” in it. I can certainly appreciate that perspective. The report won’t have come cheap (CPE is tight-lipped on how much of contractors’ money was spent on it), and pharmacists could be forgiven for expecting more than a newish spin on a conversation that has been going on for some time.

But for me, it does contain important messages that are tailored for today. For one thing, commissioning is now delegated to ICBs, and the report takes a detailed look at how these new structures should work with their local pharmacies.

And if I understand things correctly, this is more of a strategic exercise on CPE’s part than an actual attempt to revolutionise pharmacy practice, which appears to be happening whether anyone likes it or not. Since the pandemic, pharmacies have been a part of the national conversation in a way that feels genuinely new, and the report is the negotiator’s attempt to capitalise on this spotlight moment.

Chief executive Janet Morrison has said that commissioning respected external agents with an objective view of the health landscape is aimed at persuading purse string holders who might fob off something that had only the pharmacy sector’s own fingerprints on it.

I sincerely hope this pays off; there have always been parliamentarians who are especially sympathetic to the sector and pay attention to developments like the King’s Fund/Nuffield vision, but most harried MPs rely on simplified messaging by necessity. Building a broader support base will be crucial in persuading the Treasury of the need for proper investment, particularly in the context of NHS-wide budget worries. The fact that No. 10 itself is apparently paying closer attention than it has before may be encouraging.

Outgoing National Pharmacy Association (NPA) chief executive Mark Lyonette says the vision piece is a “useful steer for long-term planning” but represents a “starting point – not a limit”. I’d recommend the NPA’s own recent Making changes, meeting needs report as an imaginative and well-reasoned picture of the direction ambitious independents could be heading in the next few years.

A lot rests on CPE being able to secure better contractual terms post-2024, whatever shape the framework takes. Here’s hoping we’re not back in the same position in another five years’ time.

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