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Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee

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Health minister confirms government's vision for community pharmacy

Health minister Norman Lamb has confirmed that the government sees a central role for community pharmacy in providing integrated services for patients in the reformed NHS, highlighting in particular the role pharmacies can play helping patients with long term conditions.

Responding to concerns raised by Stephen Pound MP about community pharmacy’s role within the new NHS structures, Mr Lamb said earlier this week that the reformed NHS would enable commissioners and pharmacists to work more closely together and allow for more flexible pharmaceutical care arrangements.

However, he stressed that community pharmacy would need to make its case to local authorities and other commissioners about the services it can provide.

“The reformed commissioning environment provides new opportunities for pharmacies. If they remain passive and do not seek to make their case, they will suffer, but if they go out and make the case for the central role that they can play, for their accessibility and for the trust that the community has in them, they will be able to thrive and prosper, particularly given the focus on a new integrated care model,” he told Parliament. 

The minister said although CCGs were not obliged to involve pharmacy in their decisions: “CCGs can involve pharmacy, and I would expect that involvement to be commonplace, given the extent to which pharmacies are involved in people’s care.”

Mr Lamb said he hoped LPCs and new local pharmacy networks would be able to offer advice and support to commissioners and would make the case for community pharmacies to improve care.

And he dismissed concerns that new commissioners would be affected by conflicts of interests: “The idea that members of CCGs will secure all the profitable and lucrative services for themselves is a pretty negative view, and one that I do not share, but of course we have to be vigilant… We will not allow a situation to develop where profits come before patient care or patient choice.”

Pharmacy as the third pillar of the NHS

Mr Pound had called for pharmacy representation on health and wellbeing boards, saying this could be a “catalyst for constructive change in primary care”. And he said that the sheer complexity of the new commissioning arrangements could act as a barrier to the provision of services.

But Mr Pound also described to Parliament the “quiet but dramatic and extraordinary revolution in the world of the community pharmacist” as the sector moved from a dispensing only model to provide a range of services and health advice.

He highlighted the work of pharmacists including the increases in prescription volumes in recent years and the success of services such as MURs and the New Medicine Service, which he said could reduce hospital admissions and waste and so “bring a warm glow to the Minister’s heart”.

MPs were also referred to the UCL School of Pharmacy Lecture given by PSNC chief executive Sue Sharpe earlier this year, which set out a vision for a third pillar of the NHS with community pharmacy at its heart.

“I hope that the Minister and I can agree that the community pharmacist is the third pillar of the NHS and, just as general practice and hospital care defined the early days of the NHS and were labelled as the two great pillars on which the new creation stood, the changing role of the community pharmacist can come to define a third pillar,” Mr Pound told Parliament.

Read more about the UCL School of Pharmacy Lecture.

Posted 18 April 2013

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