EPB chair: Pharmacy can help NHS clear Covid backlog
England Pharmacy Board chair Thorrun Govind has responded to the NHS’s publication of its plan to tackle the Covid backlog of elective care by urging its leaders to draw on the expertise of pharmacy teams and the growing number of independent prescribers.
Ms Govind said pharmacy was well placed to alleviate pressures in the health service to free up resources to clear the backlog of care.
However, it said the profession needed to be supported with “a clear workforce plan” as well as funding so it can recruit and train staff.
Her comments coincided with a warning today from the Company Chemists’ Association that the pharmacy workforce has been hit by a shortfall of more than 3,000 community pharmacists in England in the last five years.
The plan revolves around four areas; increasing health service capacity and broadening the scope of elective and diagnostic services; prioritising diagnosis and treatment including a return to the six-week diagnostic standard turnaround and less time for patients to wait for elective care; transforming the way elective care is provided through a more flexible outpatient appointment proces; and ensuring patients have better information and support through improved data.
NHS England & Improvement said the last area will also involve “making greater use of the NHS App to better manage appointments, bookings and the sharing of information.”
“We will ensure patients have choice at the point of referral, and this enhanced for long-waiting patients through a national hub model,” it said.
Ms Govind said: “Pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy teams have been on the frontline of Covid-19 and have shown enormous dedication to supporting the nation’s health. Clearing the backlog of planned care is just one part of the NHS recovery and the Government must now focus on supporting new ways of working to meet growing healthcare needs in England.
“As the third-largest health profession, pharmacists have a clear role to play in the effort to clear the elective backlog, as part of the multidisciplinary team.
“We have seen some positive steps around pharmacists supporting urgent care as well earlier diagnosis for conditions such as cardiovascular disease, but this could go further with the right support. With growing numbers of independent prescribers, there’s a clear opportunity to make the most of pharmacy professional practice to deliver high-quality patient care.”
The plan was developed with expert contributions from a variety of stakeholders such as patient representative groups and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and its members including the Royal College of Surgeons of England, Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of General Practitioners.
It is unclear whether the Royal Pharmaceutical Society also contributed to the report.