The community pharmacy sector is currently making sense of the biggest change to how it operates for nearly 15 years. At the heart of these changes is the intention to move pharmacy from a volume-focused service to one that is more integrated and service- based within the wider NHS. Driving this change is a more clinically oriented Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework.
The Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) will be a new way of accessing care for many patients, who will arrive at a community pharmacy having been referred there by NHS 111, or in some pilots by their GP surgery. It will be crucial that the patient receives the right care and advice once they arrive, and that all appropriate data is captured to complete the patient’s cycle of care and to demonstrate the value of this service.
This will also be a new way of working for pharmacy. Unlike the soon-to-be-phased-out medicines use reviews, patients will actually be visiting their pharmacy expecting to receive this episode of care. This new way of working will build capacity into the NHS’s urgent care pathway and support our primary care colleagues in general practice. There is much to be positive about.
The CCA and its members, along with colleagues from across the community pharmacy sector, have been calling for a more clinically focused contract framework in recent years. We believe that the CPCS will allow community pharmacists and their teams to deliver care for an existing cohort of NHS patients in an integrated way. We’d also like to see the Pharmacy Integration Fund used to underpin this approach through the provision of training and the piloting and development of further integrated community pharmacy services.
Successful implementation is going to need a significant team effort but will ultimately help to reposition community pharmacy in the eyes of the public and senior decision-makers across Government and the NHS.
If we as a sector get the delivery of CPCS right and have the evidence to demonstrate its value, we can build on this success and expand the contract to include referrals into the CPCS from GPs and NHS Online. The stakes are high: future contractual framework funding is linked to the successful implementation of integrated services like the CPCS.
We don’t underestimate the challenge that the wider changes (or lack of change) in the CPCF will mean for all contractors.
A further five years of flat funding will present significant challenges to what is already a financially strained sector. By the time the current contract ends, the sector will have had a real term 25 per cent cut in income over the 10 years since 2014. This is happening at a time when all parts of the wider health and social care system face workforce and funding challenges while meeting increased demand.
Change at this scale will inevitably bring other challenges to our sector as we adjust to a new way of working. Nonetheless, we must not lose sight of the fact that the CPCS is just the start of hopefully many more integrated, clinically driven services that pharmacy teams will be able to deliver to support their patients and the public.
It will be crucial that patients receive the right care and advice