There is much in the NHS Long Term Plan that is encouraging. Plenty of mentions of pharmacists, albeit mostly of the ‘clinical’ kind – of which more later. However, community pharmacists are emphasised as key players in urgent care and prevention and there is the usual commitment to make greater use of their skills and opportunities to engage patients.
There is a distinct lineage linking aspects of the plan with the 2008 pharmacy white paper and even the sector’s own Community Pharmacy Forward View in 2016 (remember that?), but perhaps with less emphasis on an enhanced role for pharmacists in managing long-term conditions. This may be of interest to PSNC with its plans for a service-based contract, but yet to start talks with officials.
Light on detail but wide in scope, the strategy provides pharmacy bodies with a chance to reset the clock, but the Government needs to play ball as well. Contractors, many in financial peril, will be worried about the desire to explore “further efficiencies” in reimbursement. And you can’t help but wonder, even at this early stage, whether it is another opportunity missed to maximise the sector’s potential.
‘Clinical’ pharmacists in general practice may be attracting all the headlines and extra investment, yet it doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Community pharmacy offers solutions to many of the challenges facing the NHS – but only with fair and sustainable funding. So reverse the cuts, invest properly in the sector and match the warm words with real action. Now that’s a vision for the future everyone can buy into.