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Mixed progress in commissioning of pharmacy services since England’s NHS reforms

Discussion held at Westminster on commissioning services

One year on from the NHS reforms in England and over a third of local pharmaceutical committees responding to a survey say that they have seen a decrease in the commissioning of community pharmacy services. The statistic comes from research conducted by Pharmacy Voice and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee to which around two-thirds of LPCs contributed. Information from the survey was used to help inform a meeting about commissioning, which was hosted by the All-Party Pharmacy Group earlier this week (29 April 2014).

Other results from the survey were more positive, with 56 per cent of LPCs saying that they were optimistic about the future and that they expected to get more services commissioned. A further 44 per cent said that they felt that local authorities are maximising community pharmacy’s potential well or very well, but only 31 per cent said the same for clinical commissioning groups.

Chairman of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board Dave Branford, who spoke at the meeting, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that, so far, most of the discussions about commissioning have been “medics talking to other medics about how it feels for the NHS to be now almost completely run by medics”. At the meeting, he asked director of commissioning systems and strategy at NHS England Alex Morton if pharmacy could become a priority during year 2 of the NHS reforms.

Dr Branford told The Journal: “Commissioning is not joined up for pharmacy and what we need now is focus on how to make it work for pharmacy and other healthcare professionals.” He added that commissioning of pharmacy services feels disjointed and disconnected.

English Pharmacy Board member Sibby Buckle also attended the meeting. She said that since the reforms it seems that pharmacy is in a more complex and challenging environment than it was before. “There are opportunities out there, and we must take them, but it seems that there is more bureaucracy now,” she told The Journal. Mrs Buckle, who works as a community pharmacist in Nottingham, gave the example of an emergency hormonal contraception service, which the local CCG decided to recommission last month. “We were sent forms which later turned out to be the wrong ones; furthermore, the forms led us to believe that the service agreement had changed, when in fact it hadn’t. It has been a chaotic month,” she said.

According to Mrs Buckle, during the meeting Baroness Cumberlege, vice-chairman of the APPG, asked the profession why it had not followed the example of GPs in getting services commissioning. “Pharmacy doesn’t have a place at the table. GPs sit on the CCGs — give pharmacy a place and we will get services commissioned too,” she told The Journal. However, Mrs Buckle highlighted that pharmacy shouldn’t just be relying on local CCGs. “We need some national commissioning in order spread best practice throughout pharmacy and stop it being confined to small pockets of excellence — something that NHS England said pharmacy was still prone to,” she added.

The issue of access to electronic patient records was also broached at the meeting, and vice-chairman of the APPG Oliver Colvile, Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, said that he would be chasing the Government on progress in getting access for pharmacists.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11138028

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  • Dave Branford believes commissioning is not joined up for pharmacy

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