At the recent APPG meeting I posted two questions to Mr Burt, the Health Minister responsible for community pharmacy. And here they are:
1. Can we explore the role of community pharmacy within healthy communities? I have recently blogged that the existing contract encourages pharmacies to relocate nearer GP surgeries and the regulations make it difficult to open in healthy town initiatives. I reminded Mr Burt that GP practices are rarely located on high streets and Community Pharmacy should be considered anchor health and retail businesses on those high streets. Their presence creates footfall that is required by other businesses and the high street is an important element of health communities.
There is then the need to consider the facilities, the capability and the wider public health role and how we can create an advanced community service, such as healthy living pharmacy or self-care pharmacy as the standard. There is a need to financially support essential or community important pharmacies in some way if they are to provide a community important role.
2. Can we improve the population’s access to medicines? There is a strange perversion in the NHS to always want to fund everything – to the point where the NHS spends some £80m a year on paracetamol. There is a need to discuss the balance between prescribed and self-managed treatment and what people can have on the NHS. There is a wider issue about regulations and prescribing that would allow the community pharmacist access to more medicines to sell or prescribe. I reminded the minister that many years ago we reviewed the needs of community nurses and created a limited prescribing list to enable them to carry out their job. There is no such category for community pharmacists – so in many situations where the pharmacist could manage the patient, they can’t sell, supply or prescribe effective medicines. Do we not think it important to support community pharmacies to do their job?
From a very personal point of view, I believe that giving all community pharmacies a prescription pad and the ability to prescribe medicines from a limited list that enables them to carry out their expected role would be a great help. It would certainly stop some of the silly referrals to general practice that goes on and support the Pharmacy First message.
I notice that Mr Burt is at the Pharmacy Show tomorrow – so if I don’t get the chance to ask him this further question – here it is:
3. I would welcome you to the Pharmacy Show and remind you that there is a deal to be done, right now, today! This hall is full of companies such as RB and Neubourg, offering innovative products within parcels of care, and the community pharmacists that could deliver that care. I am sure that the companies would do everything reasonable to support pharmacists in this. The advantage to you, Mr Burt, is that these parcels of care are required to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs in the NHS and wider economy – and it will save you a small fortune. The community Pharmacies are the health retail arm of the NHS – use them – drive this agenda.