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Government’s plans for the NHS overcome first Parliamentary hurdle

by News team

Health secretary Andrew Lansley’s controversial plans to reform the NHS overcame their first Parliamentary hurdle yesterday (31 January 2011) when the Health and Social Care Bill was passed by 321 votes to 235 at its second reading.

Kicking off a six-hour debate on the Bill, Mr Lansley introduced it by saying that its purpose could be expressed in one sentence: “To improve the health of the people of this country and the health of the poorest fastest.”

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society asked politicians to raise several issues (see Panel) and put forward the profession’s view during the second reading debate.

Several MPs who voted for the Bill highlighted the importance of the integration of community pharmacists within GP consortia.

Conservative MP Mark Simmonds said: “I would very much like acute clinicians, pharmacists and others who deliver patient care to be involved in GP consortia and the commissioning process. Some of the more forward-thinking consortia are already involving acute clinicians, and this needs to be implemented across the board. We need to find a non-prescriptive architecture to enable consortia to work together to collaborate where appropriate.”

Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Lloyd said that he applauds many of the changes made by the Bill. “For years we have all talked of using pharmacists in a smarter way. Does not the Bill provide an opportunity for much more integration of community pharmacy with the consortia, and for the Government to support the consortia in that endeavour?”

The Bill will now proceed to the committee stage, where each clause and any amendments may be debated.

Charles Willis, head of public affairs at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, told PJ Online that debates at the second reading stage are on general principle rather than on detail, so MPs pressing for pharmacy to have greater involvement in the running of GP consortia and the commissioning process is a measure of success.

“No opposing views were voiced to those sentiments or to the view that pharmacists must be used in a smarter way,” he added.

Mr Willis said that the RPS is planning a greater level of lobbying activity during the committee stage of the Bill, which is expected to start in the next week or two.

Changes to the Bill proposed by the RPS

The RPS asked politicians to raise the following issues during the debate:

  • MPs should consider how the NHS commissioning board can be empowered to act in patients’ interests as independently as possible from the Government
  • Each commissioning consortium should establish an advisory board consisting of representatives of key healthcare professions, including pharmacy
  • The Bill should be amended to state that representatives of other healthcare professions, including pharmacy, be included in membership ofhealth and well-being boards
  • The need for Monitor to review an individual pharmacy’s financial records when income is not exclusively from NHS sources should be questioned
  • Steps should be taken to ensure that the provision of sexual health, smoking cessation, weight loss and other core public health services are not negatively affected by local authority budgets being under pressure
  • Access to data — standardised across the country — should be available to patients in advance of the new system of commissioning being established
  • Standardised budgeting should be implemented so that no providers, NHS or non-NHS, are advantaged in tendering processes
  • Access to the summary and other care records by all providers is essential under the “any willing provider” model

 

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 11067396

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  • Mark Simmonds MP

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