Celtic nations streets ahead on community pharmacy

England taking a short-sighted approach

The contract talks between PSNC and the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England remain shrouded in secrecy but some strong clues are beginning to emerge.

Pharmacy’s negotiators are pushing hard for a multi-year settlement like the one the GPs have, while urgent care is a key priority for the NHS as underlined in the Long Term Plan. A national minor illness referral service is very much on the cards.

The Scottish and Welsh Governments recognised some time ago the benefits that such schemes offer patients and the NHS, so it is good to see England catching up at last. However, where Scotland and Wales diverge from England is over medicines optimisation in long-term conditions.

Independent prescribing is seen by the Celtic nations as underpinning community pharmacists’ developing clinical role, but prescribing and medication reviews in England will be the preserve of ‘clinical pharmacists’, wandering like elevated life forms among the nascent primary care networks. That the huge advantages of access and patient contact provided by the community pharmacy network is being overlooked in this way is extremely short-sighted and a wasted opportunity.

Which brings us to MURs. Rumours are that they could be for the chop, which would be regrettable. Imperfect though they are, they at least allow pharmacists to spend dedicated time talking to patients about their medicines and health. Imagine if MURs could evolve into full clinical medication reviews utilising independent prescribing as part of a care pathway. Now where have we heard that before?

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