Chris Shaw

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The latest blueprint for the NHS in England vows to put community pharmacy at the heart of a new model of joined up care. The NHS Long Term Plan, published in January 2019, outlines a vision for ‘fully integrated community-based healthcare’ where pharmacists play a prominent role in multidisciplinary teams, aligned with new primary care networks.

It’s an ambitious framework that finally gives community pharmacists a seat at the top table of NHS care. However, with opportunity comes challenge. Somehow, a profession that has, for so long, operated at the edges of primary care must be properly integrated into the wider ecosystem to provide added value for patients. Steve Bradley, group managing director at Cegedim UK, believes that getting there will require a system-wide shift in culture and connective technologies to fuel collaboration. “The former may take time,” Steve observed. “The latter is readily available.”

Steve asserted: “In time, as the NHS chases down a five-year target to give every patient the right to ‘digital’ GP consultations, pharmacists could themselves feature in the online interaction, providing virtual services as trusted professionals at the centre of connected care pathways. Healthcare in England is poised to move into the 21st Century, with community pharmacy finally being given some much-deserved skin in the game. “The proposals are as exciting as they

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are familiar. Across the world, community pharmacy is undergoing a paradigm shift as health systems seek to enhance the profession’s role as primary care interventionists. The NHS has – for many years – talked up the need to maximise pharmacy’s expertise with the introduction of new services to support medicines usage, disease management and public health programmes. But the reality has never lived up to the rhetoric. So, as policymakers once again attempt to unlock the value of community pharmacy, how can we prevent their good intentions falling short at the crucial point of delivery? It won’t be easy but we have to make it work.”

Steve believes that the increasing demand for healthcare means the NHS can no longer rely on traditional models of care. “Community

MAY 2019

pharmacy is part of the solution,” he noted. “Fortunately, the tools to integrate them are well within grasp.” The Long Term Plan earmarks £4.5 billion of new investment to fund expanded community teams. This includes a ‘shared savings’ scheme for primary care networks so that they can benefit from their efforts to ‘reduce A&E attendances, streamline patient pathways and reduce over-medication through pharmacist review’. “This may sound futuristic, but in other

parts of the UK these innovations already exist,” said Steve. “In Scotland, progressive health organisations have piloted collaborative models that give pharmacies full access to GP records, allowing them to deliver services that reduce physicians’ workloads and provide a better patient experience.

These pilots, and many more, highlight the transformative benefits of collaboration and data sharing

“These pilots, and many more, highlight the transformative benefits of collaboration and data sharing. It’s why, as primary care organisations adapt to the Long Term Plan and build the infrastructure to deliver its ambitions, the most progressive will be those that draw inspiration from successful pilots and open themselves up to collaboration.” With innovative thinking, creative collaboration and simple technology, community pharmacy could help the NHS deliver integrated care that’s fit for the 21st Century. It seems that the capability and the technologies are out there. It’s time to join up the dots.

Chris Shaw l Editor

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