How can community pharmacy and general practice work better together?

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By Howard Duff, Director for England, Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Both professions operate under nationally arranged contracts which seem to be looking to achieve two different outcomes. There are many good reasons why pharmacy has benefited from this national approach and we believe that some things must remain nationally organised. However the NHS is different place today than it was when the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework was introduced many years ago.

The Five Year Forward View (FYFV) presents both the case for change and a blueprint for its trajectory. It signposts the way forward and as a profession we must “go with the flow” and not “swim against the tide”. By that I mean that the FYFV describes ways that changes will be supported to happen in the NHS. These are locally driven and they are expected to be initiated and taken forward by local leaders. We need those local leaders in pharmacy to step up and make this change happen in a way that includes the role of pharmacists. I believe that this will both improve patient care and also help to make the NHS more efficient. If we are not alert to the local change agenda then I fear that pharmacy will be left behind.

The mechanisms for change that can include community pharmacy are the multispeciality community providers, primary and acute care systems and better care for patients in care homes. These have been well documented in the press and they provide plenty of scope for community pharmacy involvement. Ah yes but it’s hard, I can hear people saying, we tried to get involved but this was an issue or that was too problematic. Or we were described in the vanguard bid but it’s proving hard to get through the co-commissioning issues to get the service off the ground. I understand all of these things and I must praise those who have managed to overcome the barriers and put community pharmacy onto the FYFV map.

This is not right though is it? Neither is it good enough. We are the third largest healthcare profession, we manage over £8 billion worth of NHS investment in medicines and yet it seems unbelievably difficult for us to help out the struggling NHS and help provide excellent patient care. The RPS English Pharmacy Board wants to facilitate making the inclusion of pharmacist-led care through community pharmacy easier. We want to promote it to other professions, patients and importantly commissioners. We need your help and support to do this – so respond to our consultation and tell us how you think patient care can be improved.

You can take part in our consultation through the RPS website. Read the ‘improving patient care through better general practice and community pharmacy integration’ consultation document and respond with your comments using the consultation form.

Howard Duff, Director for England, The Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

Follow: @HowardDuff

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