I appreciate that we will need to wait until the autumn statement to find out how the additional £20bn funding for the NHS will be allocated, but I support the efforts by the RPS and others to argue the case for a fair proportion to be channelled through community pharmacy in order to improve patient access to healthcare and reduce the strain on GPs and A&E departments.
We have seen the successful implementation of a care-based contractual model in Scotland and a recent commitment to increased funding there for community pharmacy.
In England, the Community Pharmacy Future initiative demonstrated how a similar care model could deliver better care at a lower cost for the NHS.
In parallel, we need talks to begin as soon as possible between PSNC and the Government because this could influence how that £20bn of funding is allocated. When those talks begin, I hope we will see rapid progress towards a sustainable approach to funding, which underpins a compelling vision and strategy for our sector.
The 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS is a good time to reflect on the massive contribution community pharmacy has made and continues to make. Pharmacy is at the heart of delivering the nation’s healthcare needs, yet there remain misunderstandings and misconceptions among too many patients, policymakers and commissioners about the role that community pharmacy plays today and its potential to do more in the years ahead.
I remain optimistic about the future. The evidence is compelling that the NHS needs to move from primarily providing acute services towards community-based care – and you don’t get much more community-based than community pharmacy.
Those who established the NHS all those years ago could not have imagined the changes in demand that have taken place, the huge rise in those requiring care for long-term conditions and the development of medicines and devices that can successfully treat conditions that would have been killers back in the 1940s (and even just a few decades ago).
The NHS needs to change and there are a plethora of initiatives around the country piloting what that change should look like. I would like to see greater involvement of community pharmacy in those initiatives.
However, perhaps some things in the NHS have not changed. Radio 4 recently broadcast an excellent series on the history of the NHS. From the outset, ministers were surprised by the level of demand, funding struggled to meet that demand and, yes, there were concerns about staff shortages. Maybe things aren’t that different after all.