Improved asthma and dementia care from community pharmacists under new quality scheme

Most community pharmacies in England are now providing improved asthma and dementia care, NHS England figures show.

Thousands of community pharmacists took up incentives to offer new patient services, such as providing asthma checks and undertaking training to become more dementia aware, as part of a programme to improve care.

The uptake figures from NHS England show that 97 per cent (11,410) of community pharmacies are now signed up to the Quality Payments Scheme, which provides an incentive to deliver new clinical services in a bid to encourage more people to use their local pharmacist.

An assessment of the new scheme shows that since April 2017, more than 12,500 asthma patients at high risk of suffering a severe asthma attack have been identified and referred for a full asthma review, whilst 70,000 pharmacy staff have become ‘Dementia Friends’ in order to offer greater awareness regarding the needs of people with dementia. ​

Additional improvements under the NHS England programme include adopting a range of digital and online improvements:

  • The vast majority of pharmacies (11, 406) are now able to receive and dispense prescriptions via the Electronic Prescription Service meaning 57 per cent of all prescriptions dispensed by pharmacies are now done by EPS
  • NHSMail is now available in 95 per cent of all community pharmacies, covering more than 11,000 sites and 33,000 members of staff, allowing pharmacy professionals to send and receive secure messages about patients and encouraging collaboration across health and social care
  • 11,276 pharmacies are now set up to receive real time referrals from NHS111 to support urgent and self-care cases.

NHS England issued guidance in December 2016 on how community pharmacies could qualify for the scheme, which ran between December 2016 and March 2018, and is currently considering how best to implement the successes of this scheme over the long-term.

The aim was to deliver a range of activities designed to promote community pharmacists as clinical practitioners, integrate pharmacies into the wider NHS primary care and urgent care system and focus them on improving the quality of health care for patients.

It also provided support to community pharmacies as they increasingly take on a wider role in providing clinical assessment and advice to patients for minor health concerns to help ease demand on other areas of the health system.

The scheme focused on three areas – patient safety, patient experience and clinical effectiveness, resulting in:

  • 9,474 becoming accredited ‘healthy living’ pharmacies – providing expert support for healthy living to local communities with trained health champions (Royal Society for Public Health accredited)
  • More than 12,500 high risk asthma patients being identified and referrals made for an asthma review (helping to prevent asthma deaths)
  • 11,193 pharmacies achieved 80 per cent of their patient-facing staff becoming Dementia Friends
  • 11,395 pharmacies updated their NHS Choices information to include services available such as chlamydia testing and screening
  • Over 95 per cent of pharmacies accessing electronic patient summary care records to support clinical care
  • Over 20,000 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians working in community pharmacies have also now been trained to Level 2 in safeguarding.

Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, Dr Bruce Warner said: “We want pharmacists to make the most of their valuable clinical skills, helping patients to stay well all year round. It is fantastic to see the near universal uptake of the quality payments scheme leading to a range of benefits to patients, pharmacists and the wider NHS system. I welcome the response from community pharmacy in embracing these new ways of working.”

Professor Mike Morgan, NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Respiratory Services, said: “Asthma is a long-term condition that requires constant review and adjustment by the patient and the health professional. Serious attacks of asthma should not be treated as one-off episodes but seen as a failure of chronic care. These attacks, which may be fatal, can often be predicted by warning signs. Frontline community pharmacists are in an excellent position to give potentially life-saving advice and it’s great to that this scheme has delivered this significant step forward in patient care.”

Since April 2017, over 97 per cent of pharmacies – 11,410 out of approximately 11,700 – took part in the scheme.