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GPs welcome closer work with pharmacists

NHS call for greater integration of community pharmacy in primary care

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Pharmacists have an increasingly important role in out-of-hospital care and relieving pressure on general practice, NHS England said this morning. As part of its national ‘Call to Action’, it is discussing with community pharmacy teams how they can play “an important and expanding role in public health and reducing health inequalities” – and GPs have welcomed the plan for greater integration.

The NHS Alliance said it “fully supports the mobilisation and integration of community pharmacy in [their] new vision of comprehensive integrated service delivery” and in particular “the greater use of community pharmacy in the provision of public health services and their role in managing common conditions in reducing the pressure on general practice, out of hours services and A&E”. It added: “The NHS Alliance is focused on breaking down the historic boundaries and silos that get in the way of truly progressive and innovative community-based patient care … We believe that community pharmacy has a much greater role to play in delivering an effective health service fit for the future.”

NHS England said it aims to stimulate debate among clinical commissioning groups, health and wellbeing boards, local authorities and other community partners, about how best to develop services that can be delivered by pharmacists and their teams in a community setting. It described community pharmacy as a key frontline health service that provides healthcare, expert advice about medicines, and “an effective alternative to many over-subscribed primary care services such as local GP practices”.

But it pointed out that “the current system is unsustainable and that primary care services face increasing pressures”, and it is consulting all interested parties to see how the sector could transform how it provides services in the community, working with general practice “to play an even stronger role at the heart of more integrated out-of-hospital services that deliver better health outcomes”.

Mark Robinson, the NHS Alliance’s pharmacy, medicines and medicines optimisation advisor, said: “There are many excellent examples of innovative community pharmacy based services around the country – our issue is both integrating these more effectively within the total community based primary care service and spreading them across the country to provide a consistency that patients can recognise and rely on. Small improvements in the use of technology, accelerating the access to summary care records, direct access to GP appointments and teleconsultation can make a significant difference.”

NHS England’s deputy chief pharmaceutical officer Clare Howard said: “We are now developing an even greater understanding of the challenges that face primary care and how we must work differently to achieve sustainable change and support better health outcomes for patients, to provide more personalised care and deliver an excellent patient experience; this has to go hand in hand with the most efficient possible use of NHS resources.”

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