GP Forward View

Cormac Tobin, Managing Director of Celesio UK

At a time when community pharmacy is facing a potential funding cut of £170 million it is hard to comprehend this week’s announcement of a £2.4 billion cash injection into GP practices. This failure to recognise the considerable value that the existing army of community pharmacists could deliver to the NHS is extremely disappointing.

According to NHS England in their GP Forward View published this week “Pharmacists remain one of the most underutilised professional resources in the system and we must bring their considerable skills in to play more fully.”

We couldn’t agree more, in fact, after digesting the report; we’d go so far as to say that pharmacists remain one of the most undervalued professional resources in the system.

It’s heartening to see the importance of the role of pharmacy is recognised in the report but we are disappointed that the full value, expertise and potential to support the system that already exists within our community pharmacy network is not front and centre of NHS England’s thinking.

Essentially we think they’ve missed the point in this thinking, and are missing the opportunity that the network of trained community pharmacists, who are willing and able to support, could afford the sector.

We know that over 50 million GP consultations delivered to patients with minor ailments could be displaced to community pharmacy helping to relieve the huge pressure on the NHS and GP practices.
Community pharmacy is set up to serve the patient; the infrastructure is already focussed on putting the patient first with fast and easy access to services and advice.

By commissioning services nationally we believe that community pharmacy could relieve pressure on GP’s for things like minor ailments clinics and with more engagement from GP’s services such as repeat dispensing could grow to relieve even more pressure.

The future role of the community pharmacist should include long term conditions management and medicines optimisation services which the report recommends recruiting 1500 brand new clinical pharmacists to deliver.

The question is, does it make more sense for some of this work be done by the active professional workforce already available to patients? Surely it’s more cost effective, faster and easier for patients to tap into a network of trained professionals, the community pharmacists that are on their doorstep?

If the NHS is going ensure that general practice is ‘Fit for the Future’ they should recognise the excellent patient care being delivered in the community and its potential to strengthen and support primary care provision.