NHS policy makers should be clear with community pharmacists on their plans for the sector, including whether they plan to review legislation around the hub and spoke dispensing model, Royal Pharmaceutical Society England board chair Sandra Gidley has told PM.
Ms Gidley was speaking to PM following a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pharmacy held to discuss pharmacy’s role in implementing the NHS Long Term Plan.
Witnesses speaking at the event included Bruce Warner, deputy chief pharmaceutical officer with NHS England, and professor John Newton, director of health improvement with Public Health England.
Ms Gidley said she had been “waiting” for Mr Warner to mention hub and spoke during a section of the meeting where technology was discussed, describing the topic as the “elephant in the room”.
Ms Gidley also said that in her view the NHS should make better use of pharmacy's potential in managing long-term conditions such as cardiovascular disease, as well as focusing on minor ailments. She also spoke of the importance of pharmacists taking up opportunities to widen their skillset such as the Mary Seacole leadership programme.
Speaking about the need for clarity on NHS thinking, Ms Gidley said: “It’s not helpful in a situation like this when you don’t really describe what you’re talking about, because I think the more clarity we can have from the DHSC and NHS England, the easier it is for the sector to focus on delivering for patients in the future.
“Until all that fog around some of these phrases has lifted, people will just continue to worry about that rather than thinking about the future.”
There have been reports that a mention in the Long Term Plan of “efficiencies” to be made with regard to community pharmacy could indicate that NHS England is once again considering rolling out the hub and spoke dispensing model – currently permitted within the same pharmacy business – more widely across the sector.
The Department of Health and Social Care consulted in 2016 on allowing independents to use the model, but plans were shelved due to concerns such as safety.
PM has contacted Mr Warner to ask if he can shed any more light on whether and how NHS England sees sector-wide hub and spoke as preferable to the current model in community pharmacy.