Shrink the £30bn NHS funding gap

Redesigning how patient services are delivered in England could unlock millions of pounds of efficiency savings for the NHS and improve patient care claims Cormac Tobin, managing director at CelesioUK and the Lloydspharmacy chain.

 Responding to NHS England’s call for “an honest and open debate ”Tobin warns the Government’s new NHS structure could fail to deliver any material benefit to patients without a root and branch review of how care is delivered and a more radical approach to integrate services around individual patients.

 He said, “I support the principle of greater choice and competition, but fear we may end up with more pieces in the NHS jigsaw not joined together to form a coherent picture for patients.

 “Lloydspharmacy estimates that the NHS could save around £800m by better managing the care provided to those with the five most common long-term conditions. The NHS spends around £9bn a year on the medicines bill, but 30 to 50 percent of patients don’t use those medicines properly, if at all, causing costly, unplanned hospital admissions. Community pharmacy is best placed to address these issues.

 “Fixing that would also support the goal of the NHS Mandate which made better support in local communities for those with long-term conditions an NHS priority.

 “There is further £400m of efficiency savings to be realised by commissioning a national minor ailments service from community pharmacies. Around 40 percent of GP consultations are for minor ailments The cost to the NHS of a pharmacy consultation is about half the cost of a GP consultation and it is more convenient for patients as they do not have to make an appointment.

 “That would also let GPs spend more time with patients with complex conditions and lowers the risk they end up in hospital which costs the NHS more.

 “If we are serious about moving from a health service which treats illness – at a huge and increasing unaffordable cost – to one which avoids illness arising in the first place we need to use our local community pharmacies to spearhead a national healthy living and wellbeing programme.

 “The final area to consider is better use of community pharmacies to screen patients most at risk of strokes, heart attacks or developing diabetes. This year, Lloydspharmacy is celebrating 10 years of providing free diabetes tests.

 “NHS England is right to call for an open and honest debate about how healthcare is delivered. There is a huge opportunity to improve patient care and reduce the burden on GPs and hospitals if we make greater use of pharmacies to deliver healthcare services”.

 CelesioUK is one of the country’s largest healthcare providers with a strong presence in the secondary, primary and homecare sectors. Each day, millions of patients rely on the services which its businesses provide on behalf of the NHS.