Community pharmacy innovation key to solving NHS access crisis

20 Feb 2019

Policy makers and commissioners should continue to look to community pharmacy if they are to innovate their way out of the NHS access crisis, MPs have been told.

The comments came from NPA board member Andrew Lane who was speaking at last night’s (TUE) Conservative Health forum on the future of pharmacy, at the House of Lords.

Mr Lane welcomed proposals to make better use of pharmacists’ skills in GP surgeries, as part of the new five-year contract, but said community pharmacists must also be enabled to do more.

He said: “There are some great innovations underway in the community pharmacy sector.

“In the North East we have the Community Pharmacy Referral Scheme, which is in the pilot stage. The NHS call it Digital Minor Illness Referral Scheme (DMIRS).

“Seventy-six per cent of people referred from NHS111 into North East pharmacies for minor ailments were handled in the pharmacy.

“That keeps them away from the GP surgery or the emergency department which is where they had been going, because they didn’t know where else to go.

“In the first four months of operation more than 5,000 patients were referred, saving the equivalent of 11 weeks of GP time.”

The initiative is being piloted in two other regions and could be rolled out nationally.

Mr Lane also cited a Sheffield pilot scheme in which Basegreen Pharmacy was given full read/write access to Jaunty Springs Medical Practice patient medical records.

The collaboration allowed the pharmacy to conduct medication reviews and provide other dedicated support to the practice.

Mr Lane said an estimated 18m GP appointments could be saved if the scheme was rolled out nationally but funding issues were stifling this type of innovation.

He said more than half (54% ) of NPA members surveyed recently are worried about survival and nine in ten (89%) say their monthly wholesaler bill exceeds the NHS payment.

Mr Lane cited a video message by health secretary Matt Hancock, recorded exclusively for NPA members during a visit to one of NPA board member Anil Sharma’s pharmacies, in Newmarket.

In the video Mr Hancock says he wants community pharmacy to do “much more”. He continues: “In this country, too often we reach to go to the GP when often our problem, our concern, can be solved with the pharmacies.

“And we know that there’s pressures on the health system, on GPs and on hospitals, and pharmacies have got so much more to offer.

“I want us to be a country where more often the first port of call is to go and see the pharmacy.”

To realise this aspiration, Mr Hancock says the pharmacy contract would need to change and improvements to IT systems would be required so the right information is in the right place.

He adds: “I think there’s lots of opportunities to improve the way this works because I see community pharmacies as an asset in the community.

“Helping people to stay healthy and that’s the vision I want for the whole system in the UK.”

Commenting on Mr Hancock’s remarks Mr Lane said the clinical skills of community pharmacists have never been needed more and he looks forward to seeing a pharmacy contract which recognises this.

Other speakers at the event, which was chaired by Baroness Julia Cumberlege, included: Liz Butterfield, Primary Care Pharmacy Association president; Clive Roberts, head of the pharmacy school at the University of Nottingham, and; Sandra Gidley, chair of the English pharmacy board at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

A paper from the event will be circulated to MPs.