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NHS England has today (20 October 2016) announced a £42m Pharmacy Integration Fund (PhIF) to support pharmacy to transform how it operates across the NHS for the benefit of patients over the next two years.
The Pharmacy Integration Fund will support community pharmacy as it develops new clinical pharmacy services, working practices and digital platforms to meet the public’s expectations for a modern NHS community pharmacy service.
It follows the announcement of the Department of Health’s new Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework and associated funding, and comprises a package of proposals for 2016- 2018.
The aim of the PhIF is to support the development of clinical pharmacy practice in a wider range of primary care settings, resulting in more integrated and effective NHS primary care for patients.
In particular, the fund will drive the greater use of community pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in new, integrated local care models.
This will improve access for patients, relieve the pressure on GPs and accident and emergency departments, ensure best use of medicines, drive better value and improve patient outcomes.
The Independent Review of Community Pharmacy Clinical Services, which was commissioned by the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer of England, Dr Keith Ridge, will be used to help determine how the funding is spent over the next two years. The review is due to report by the end of the year.
Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England Dr Keith Ridge said:
“NHS England is making this extra money available to help modernise the pharmacy sector and make the most of pharmacists’ skills. We are not asking community pharmacy to do more, but to work with us over the next five years to develop how we can do things differently.
“There is no doubt that the community pharmacy profession will have to change how it works but we will be working closely with them to support and enable this process.
“Everyone agrees that community pharmacy is being held back by outdated working practices and an old-fashioned view of the pharmacist as someone who simply dispenses medicines at the back of the shop rather than as a trained clinical professional who provides specialist advice to patients and doctors from a professionally orientated clinical environment. We want to work with the profession to change that and rather than increasing the burden on GPs the aim is to allow community pharmacists to take a greater NHS role in helping patients.”
Community pharmacists are skilled, registered health professionals whose initial training is one year less than their medical colleagues. They can be trusted to ensure the patient’s best interests are at the heart of the care they deliver. Pharmacists are now undergoing training in many areas to become prescribers in their own right and work closely with their general practice colleagues to improve access to clinical services. This is central to helping patients get optimal outcomes from their medicines.
As a result of new ways of working in general practice, nearly 500 pharmacists are currently working in GP surgeries and care homes, enabling more people to benefit from the clinical expertise of pharmacists and relieve the pressure on general practice waiting times and on hospital admissions. Now we want to extend this kind of innovation into community pharmacy using the PhIF as the catalyst for transformation.
NHS England will ensure they work closely with existing community and hospital pharmacists so this is about transforming community pharmacy for the benefit of the public.
Initiatives under the Pharmacy Integration Fund (PhIF) already include:
- Two work streams aimed at integrating community pharmacy into the NHS’ national urgent care system, to run in parallel from December 2016 to April 2018: the urgent medicines supply service and the urgent minor illness care work with NHS 111.
- Health Education England has been commissioned to produce a workforce plan for pharmacy professionals in primary care to be able inform the workforce development needs for pharmacy across the health care system linking with the work they have already done in secondary care. We expect this to be ready by Spring 2017
- From April 2017: deployment of pharmacy professionals in care homes and funding workforce development for pharmacists who work in care homes including a prescribing qualification.
- From April 2017: there will be funding for pharmacists working in urgent care clinical hubs, such as NHS 111, integrated urgent care clinical hubs or GP out of hours services, and again this will include a prescribing qualification.
- There will be educational grants for community pharmacists to access postgraduate clinical pharmacy education and training courses up to diploma level from April 2017.
- Also from April 2017, a programme of pharmacy technician clinical leadership development.
- An agreed priority will be to evaluate the impact of digital technologies on the health care system to improve efficiencies and modernize.
The governance of the fund is overseen by an NHS England Pharmacy Integration Oversight Group including representation from CCGs, NHS England regions, General Practice, Patients and Carers, Department of Health, Health Education England and Public Health England.
To determine the further deployment of the Fund beyond 2018/19, NHS England will continue to undertake ongoing planning and engagement with a range of stakeholders.
A pharmacy integration stakeholder reference group will be established in 2017 to ensure engagement with a wide range of stakeholders. This will be in addition to the two task and finish groups that have already been established for care homes and integrated urgent care. The work on urgent care will also be reported through to the Pharmacy Reference Group for the Keeping People Well and Stable work stream of the NHS England Out of Hospital Urgent Care programme.