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What the new community pharmacy settlement means for the future

The Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer explains why the new contract between the NHS and 11,700 community pharmacies is good news for patients and pharmacy professionals:

The Government, the NHS and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee announced a new Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework on 22 July 2019.

It’s a five-year settlement which delivers for patients, and supports delivery of the NHS Long Term Plan, the vision we have set out for all parts of the NHS including community pharmacy.

It provides the accessible and convenient healthcare that the public really want, while offering a more fulfilling clinical career to pharmacists and pharmacy technicians as a valued part of the NHS team.

This is an important achievement and something that was not easy to agree. But all parties to the deal have compromised and we are in a far better place because of it.

This new agreement provides community pharmacy with the funding clarity and certainty for five years which it has requested and indeed it is historic in this regard.

It also sets the scene for the further transformation and reform of community pharmacy – putting in place some new clinical services and piloting others that will be rolled out over the five years, which is what people have asked for and rightly so; and setting out commitments to develop new legislation on key issues such as reimbursement and hub and spoke.

It releases the time needed to create an expanded clinical role for pharmacists, setting up an NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service across England, which could see millions of GP appointments transferred to community pharmacy for minor illness and health advice.

As well as an expanded role in minor illness, it puts in place a new frontline role for pharmacy teams in local communities – making a contribution to central NHS priorities such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and respiratory disease, prevention of ill-health and helping older people to age well.

There is no doubt this deal makes better use of the clinical skills of community pharmacists, something I have long advocated, and will enable and support them to work collaboratively and build those necessary relationships with clinical pharmacists in the new primary care networks led by general practices, so they are better connected into the local NHS.

Joining up primary care organisations ‒ GPs, pharmacists and community services ‒ for patients, is the foundation of the NHS Long Term Plan and community pharmacies are an important part of these networks.

It’s been a priority for me to ensure we create a more fulfilling clinical career for community pharmacists and pharmacy technicians and this deal does that.

In my visits up and down the country I spend a lot of time talking with pharmacists and their teams – having honest conversations about the challenges people are facing. I know the ‘flat cash’ funding settlement is difficult, and I acknowledge that this may feel disappointing, but the NHS is driving forward efficiencies where they are possible and that is important for all of us.

It is good news that there is a much greater degree of common ground, collaborative working and improved relationships between the sector and the NHS.

Yes, there are many ongoing challenges, but community pharmacy is firmly established as part of the NHS going forward, and the clinical contribution of community pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and their teams is being properly recognised.

We must all build on this opportunity now to rebuild trust and work even more closely together.

*There is a useful summary briefing about the contract on the NHS England and NHS Improvement website.

Dr Bruce Warner

Dr Bruce Warner works closely with the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer on the strategic and operational development of medicines policy for NHS England.

Prior to this post, Bruce worked as Deputy Director of Patient Safety at the NPSA and in NHS England where he led on the strategy for patient safety improvement and headed up the patient safety advice and guidance function.

Bruce has worked in most sectors of pharmacy including community, hospital, academia and at a PCG/T. He is also a visiting Professor of Pharmacy Practice at the University of Huddersfield.

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