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Don’t make us an afterthought

The NHS is working up a new plan linked to an additional £20bn of Government funding, says the NPA’s Stephen Fishwick. What does this mean for pharmacy?

Stephen Fishwick

The scope of the new NHS 10-year plan will be wide-ranging, addressing priorities from ‘putting the patient at the heart of how we organise care’ to harnessing the power of innovation and empowering the healthcare workforce. There will also be a focus on prevention and achieving ‘true parity’ of care between mental and physical health.

Pharmacy has lots to offer in all these areas. That is why one of the acid tests of the long-term plan should be this: Come the NHS’s 80th birthday, 10 years from now, will the potential of the entire health and social care workforce have been realised – not only doctors and nurses but local pharmacists and many others too? We suggest the following tests are also considered:

  • Will the NHS be a truly ‘neighbourhood’ health service as well as a National Health Service, with more services provided close to home by providers embedded in local communities?
  • Will the NHS be maximising the use of technology to achieve efficiencies but without having lost the human touch in health care, characterised by advice, support and treatment delivered face-to-face?
  • Will the health service look more like a wellness service than an illness service, with an effective programme for prevention and health improvement?
  • Will the poorest patients and communities have benefited from the new investment; will the differences in health outcomes between the better off and worse off have reduced?

Earlier this year, the NPA gathered and distributed stories about community pharmacy’s proud track record in the NHS as part of the NHS 70th anniversary celebrations. We pointed out that community pharmacy has a central role and is not a mere adjunct to the wider system. Many of the stories sent to us by NPA members showed that, as a provider of key services to the NHS, community pharmacists blend the entrepreneurial spirit of private enterprise with the values of public service.

It’s about people, not pills

Pharmacists, indeed anyone working in a front-line pharmacy role, understand that the NHS is ultimately about people, not pills. Community pharmacy is ideally placed to be the facilitator of personalised care for people with long-term conditions and to support and empower patients to manage their own health – which is stated to be a key area for the 10-year plan.

Any truly ambitious plan should therefore include community pharmacy, which already provides convenient local access to healthcare, inside and outside the NHS.

An online consultation continues until September 30 and is open to all to contribute. Meanwhile, in co-ordination with other pharmacy leadership bodies, the NPA is making representations to the work stream leads developing the long-term plan.

The NPA is also taking part in a debate about the 10-year plan at the Conservative Party conference. You can watch from 5.20pm on Monday, October 1, via Live Stream at Facebook.com/NationalPharmacyAssociation or join the discussion via Twitter.com/NPA1921.

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