Chief Executive’s Blog – NHS Long Term Plan & GP Funding deal

Chief Executive’s Blog – NHS Long Term Plan & GP Funding deal

February 21, 2019

The NHS Long-term plan and the subsequent GP funding deal to transform primary care are two very clear and important indicators about the future direction of travel and development of the NHS over the next five to ten years. If delivered, they will represent a step change in the way out of hospital care is delivered, the type of which we have been talking about for years.

It is very clear that Government and NHS England places huge value in the contribution that pharmacy profession in the widest sense can make to ever growing and more complex medicines use. The order of the day will be development of clinical pharmacy practice, delivered in multi-professional way, locally. It’s going to be local with a capital “L “as integrated care systems and primary care networks develop at a local NHS level.

Some contractors will no doubt feel uncertain, challenged and unclear where this fits with the community pharmacy business model; the opportunities will feel focused on individual pharmacists & technicians, rather than community pharmacy owners and their teams, some of whom are fighting for survival given the funding pressures previously imposed on the sector. They also see fresh challenges with developments in automation, artificial intelligence and difficulties in the general retail environment.

Despite this, we should welcome the coming of age of clinical pharmacy practice and the move to be fully integrated within Primary Care Networks. Community pharmacy will need to seek to grasp all the opportunities that this presents, although this will not be easy. What is becoming very clear is that now the NHS has set out what it wants, as a sector we must take heed, respond, adapt and meet those needs to have a sustainable future. We must also re-frame our current offering through this new lens . One thing is for sure: it will require change ahead, some of which will be challenging.

There are some reasons to be positive. With the scale of the challenge ahead, the NHS will need to use the clinical skills of community pharmacy, to achieve the vision it has set out for better safety, outcomes and value from medicines. Community pharmacy is the largest single pharmacy workforce and we must use this strength to our advantage, working in partnership with others and leading across systems to explore our contribution now and in the future.

With the correct enablers, such as digital developments and refreshing of skills through NHS supported programmes, clinical pharmacy practice can be developed and be delivered in the community pharmacy setting, virtually integrated across primary care networks. It is also likely to reach many more patients and deal with some of the workforce challenges that the NHS is grappling with, not least finding hundreds of pharmacists over the South East alone for the development of primary care networks.

The NHS has also been clear about the important clinical role community pharmacy will play in the prevention agenda, self-care, minor illness and urgent/emergency care. This is a positive step and we should expect developments such as formalised minor illness referrals from GPs and NHS111 rolled out in the months and years ahead. Key will be to ensure widespread adoption by pharmacies, local integration and the sector rising to the challenge to consistently deliver and at a high quality.

Some of this will be led nationally, however LPCs will have a key role in providing local support to mobilisation and to capitalise on local opportunities in these areas of practice. There are some great examples of developments across the South East; working with the Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network, along with NHS Trusts, CCGs and Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) we are working to digitalise and formalise referrals for MURs and NMS services to support patients on transfer of care from hospital.

Your LPCs across East Sussex, West Sussex and Surrey will be meeting in early March to consider in more detail the Long-term plan, what it means locally and how we will support all pharmacies across Surrey & Sussex in response.  Local leadership, relationships and active engagement with a whole variety of partners, will become ever more important and critical than ever before, if we are to have a community pharmacy network that is integrated  into the local NHS.

I’m very clear that it will require us to continue to step up in terms of LPC skills, capacity and support for pharmacies.  It will also need us to help enable and facilitate change across Surrey & Sussex, helping pharmacy businesses and their teams to identify, develop and deliver on local opportunities as the landscape continues to evolve.

By James Wood FRPharmS, Chief Executive, Community Pharmacy Surrey & Sussex

James can be contacted by email or follow him on Twitter here 

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