Community Pharmacy In Crisis

community pharmacy

Community Pharmacy (CP) is a profession that is going through an extremely tough time. Community Pharmacies offer a huge number of invaluable services but unfortunately not everyone seems to recognise it at the moment.

In December 2016, there were major changes to the pharmacy funding model which continued in 2018 and into 2019. The Government announced the NHS Long Term Plan and Community Pharmacy was only mentioned three times. General Practice has been issued with a 5-year contract while Community Pharmacy was only issued a 6-month contract extension.

The Impact On Community Pharmacy (CP)

This has led to a real crisis within the sector and pharmacies are starting to struggle. The results are that more pharmacies are closing and the people who truly lose out are the patients serviced by those pharmacies. All of this means that local communities will no longer be able to simply pop into a pharmacy and speak to a pharmacist about their health needs.

More people will subsequently access healthcare via their GP practice which only adds more pressure onto the system. Ultimately, the entire health industry needs community pharmacies to help the already congested system. Even the NHS should recognise the value of community pharmacies and they should look at how pharmacies are remunerated to ensure that they are present to serve the NHS.

The 2019 contract negotiations are currently underway and everyone is hoping for a positive outcome. It would go a long way to really show how Community Pharmacy can move forward as an integral part of the health system. For a closer look at how this has already affected pharmacies, read the full story on Boots and Lloyds Pharmacy.

Community Pharmacy Contractual Negotiations

The Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) is responsible for setting out terms for providing NHS pharmaceutical services in England. This also includes funding paid to pharmacy contractors to provide several core health services.

As stipulated in the NHS Long Term Plan and GP contract, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) wants to explore possible services with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC). More to the point, this refers to the possible roll-out of a national minor illness service through NHS 111. It also includes piloting referrals to community pharmacy from general practice and the NHS.uk online platform.

The DHSC opened negotiations by sharing proposals for the CPCF with the PSNC for 2019-2020 and beyond. Regular meetings will take place between the DHSC, NHS England and the PSNC for further discussions.

Pharmacy Funding 2018/2019

While funding will be reviewed throughout the year, interim arrangements from 1 April 2019 were agreed upon. This means that the current funding of £2.592 billion per year remains but it will be replaced once the substantive arrangements have been negotiated. This amount will be split to deliver £1.792bn in fees and allowances while the remaining £800m is for the medicine buying margin.

The PSNC expressed deep concerns to HM Government in terms of the extreme financial pressures that community pharmacy contractors face. It extends to their inability to reinvest as a result of financial constraints such as increasing staff costs and business rates.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, said: “As part of the Long Term Plan for the NHS we want to see pharmacies deliver a wider range of more efficient services and give patients more control over their care and personal health. The start of these negotiations signals an important step in delivering that ambition.”

For a more detailed overview of funding changes since 2005, please visit the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee’s website.

Understanding The Importance Of Pharmacy Teams

While pharmacists are not doctors, they are qualified healthcare professionals who can offer clinical advice and provide over-the-counter medicines. This mainly involves minor illnesses from coughs and colds to sore throats, tummy troubles and general aches and pains.

Pharmacists study for five years in the use of medicines and that includes managing minor illnesses and providing health advice. At any time when your symptoms suggest something more serious, pharmacists have the right training to ensure that you get the help you need. If they can’t be of further assistance or suspect a serious underlying condition, they will refer you to a GP.

Many pharmacies stay open late and even over weekends. You also don’t need an appointment and can simply walk in, ask for advice or buy the medicine you need. Most pharmacies have private consultation rooms where you can discuss your health issues with a trained, professional pharmacy team member.

Community Pharmacy Services

Pharmacists receive extensive training and education which enables them to answer your questions on prescription and over-the-counter medicines. If you are regularly prescribed the same medicine, your GP can give you a repeat prescription. You can choose which pharmacy to collect it from and your GP will send your prescriptions there.

Many pharmacies also offer New Medicine Service that gives you extra help and advice if you are starting on a new medicine for any of these conditions:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • New blood-thinning medicine

At most pharmacies, you can make an appointment with a pharmacist for a consultation called a Medicines Use Review. This is a more detailed discussion about the use of medicine especially if you take several prescription medicines or suffer from a long-term illness.

Additional Pharmacy Services

If your medicine has expired or you no longer need it, don’t throw it away at home or flush it down the loo. You should rather take it to your local pharmacy as they are experienced and equipped to safely dispose medicine.

Other pharmacy services include the following:

  • Pharmacies are often a point of contact for specific advice after dialing NHS 111
  • Flu vaccination
  • Advice on using asthma inhalers
  • Emergency contraception
  • Screening and treatment of chlamydia
  • Quit smoking service
  • Tests for blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar
  • Substance abuse services which also include needle and syringe exchange schemes
  • Weight management service

The Future Of Pharmacy

Pharmacies provide a wide range of services in support of the overall health industry. They are essential to the NHS and form part of their prevention agenda to provide better healthcare to help more people stay healthy. This can only be achieved if all parties agree and find solutions to improve relations going forward.

In light of the negotiations, PSNC Chief Executive, Simon Dukes, said: “PSNC is pleased to be able to begin these negotiations, the outcome of which will be absolutely critical for all pharmacy contractors in England. Our priority is to seek a sustainable future for community pharmacy to enable us to better utilise the skills and knowledge of pharmacy teams to help people stay well in the community.”

Online Training With VirtualOutcomes

The online training courses from VirtualOutcomes help pharmacy and surgery teams remain up to date on various healthcare topics. In addition to gaining valuable knowledge, they will also be better equipped and prepared to provide support and advice to patients. You will find our training courses on obesity, smoking, diabetes and alcohol interesting, powerful and easily accessible.

If you’d like to keep informed on all the latest news, keep reading our blog or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.