PJ Online | Leading articles (What's in it for pharmacy? / Curbing patients' expectations)
The Pharmaceutical Journal
Behind the headlines after last week's Budget, together with the publication of the update to the NHS plan for England and the Wanless report on the long-term funding of the National Health Service, there is one question to be answered. What is in it for pharmacy?
Undoubtedly there are opportunities ahead, although neither the update to the NHS plan nor the Wanless report explicitly spells out what part the profession may play (see p564).
And there are other developments that suggest that pharmacy's future should, at least, be more interesting. The consultation document on pharmacist prescribing (PJ, 20 April, p521, and this issue, p562) and the consultation on reclassification of prescription only to pharmacy medicines (PJ, 2 February, p131) are just two important initiatives that take pharmacy forward. So, too, does the Audit Commission report into medication errors "A spoonful of sugar" published in December (PJ, 22/29 December 2001, p873). In addition, the recent release of a new contract for general practitioners may provide opportunities for primary care pharmacists and community pharmacists to benefit by offering added-value services for innovative practices.
These developments will not take place overnight, although there is one action that pharmacists in England should take now: look closely at the composition of the boards of their primary care trusts. With increasing commissioning power and control over funding passing to PCTs, pharmacists should do their utmost to secure representation at the highest level in their local PCT structure.
The Budget may have created one unexpected problem for the NHS: the general public may only just have registered that billions of pounds have been pumped into it. As a result, their expectations may increase even further. Has the Government missed a trick in not emphasising that with the rights that patients have to expect a good service come responsibilities?
The update to the NHS plan talks about the need to protect NHS staff from violent patients and to stop hoax callers misusing emergency services. It also talks vaguely about the need for a contract to be established between patients and doctors on registration which would "form the basis for a mature doctor-patient relationship based on mutual rights and responsibilities".
Fortunately, the Wanless report on the funding of the National Health Service is more practical and suggests that patients should be told more about how much treatments and appointments cost. This should extend to the cost of medicines and in a small way contribute to increasing the better use of them. Let us hope this is a small step towards educating patients to value what the NHS offers and not to take it for granted.
Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 20006579
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