Patients in the UK will gain a better service from their local pharmacist as Government plans for a more flexible, modernised service moved a step further towards implementation, Health Minister Rosie Winterton announced today.
Following successful negotiations with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and the NHS Confederation, a new contract for high street pharmacists should go live, subject to a ballot by pharmacists, from 1 April 2005.
Under the new deal, pharmacists will be rewarded for the range and quality of services they provide rather than the volume of medicines they dispense. This gives them an incentive to broaden the range of services they offer to their community. For example, pharmacists could be paid for expanding their services to include checking people's blood pressure, monitoring blood glucose levels, offering smoking cessation services and generally promoting healthy lifestyles.
Ahead of speaking at a meeting of the All Party Pharmacy Group at the House of Commons this evening, Rosie Winterton said:
“I am delighted that we have reached this stage. This new contract represents the beginning of a new era for pharmacy in the community, in which everyone will benefit.
“Until now, pharmacists have been an untapped resource. I want to see them more integrated with the NHS family. There will be provision made for pharmacists to offer a much wider range of services to the public. For example, supporting self-care and the management of common ailments, promoting healthy lifestyles and helping patients to get the best from their medicines.
“The introduction of repeat dispensing in every pharmacy will mean that patients will be able to get a prescription from their GP (for up to a year at a time) to be dispensed in instalments agreed by the prescriber and the pharmacist.
“Patients will no longer have to make repeat visits to the surgery for prescriptions, helping reduce GP workloads and offering opportunities for pharmacists to review patient medication. This can also help minimise waste by not dispensing medicines that patients no longer require and is especially suitable for people with long-term conditions.”
This deal is part of a bigger reform agenda where more health services are provided by a more diverse range of providers – giving greater choice for patients and more convenient access to services.
Barry Andrews, Chairman of the PSNC said:
“I am pleased that we have been able to reach agreement with the Government on proposals for a new pharmacy contract that will provide better services for patients, better use of the skills of pharmacists, and a more secure future for community pharmacy contractors.”
Sue Sharpe, Chief Executive of the PSNC added:
“This new contract sets in place a modern, quality-driven framework for community pharmacy to develop its role in the NHS. It will allow pharmacists to deliver real improvements in patient care through a range of new services including the promotion of self care, the management of long-term conditions, and initiatives to improve public health. It will also ensure that all professionals in primary care work effectively together."
Chris Town, NHS Confederation pharmacy lead, and Chief Executive of Peterborough PCT said:
“We are delighted with the announcement of the new contractual framework for community pharmacy, which gives PCTs the opportunity to work with local pharmacists to develop a range of high quality community pharmacy services.
“This will make them an integral part of local primary care services. PCTs should be assessing their local needs now so that they are fully able to exploit these opportunities in order to maximise the benefits to patients."
Ballot papers will be sent to pharmacy contractors in November, enabling them to vote on the new contract and funding arrangements. The result of the vote will be known at the end of November.