Pharmacy chiefs have published their vision for the future of community pharmacy in the UK, laying out a new roadmap to radically enhance and expand personalised care, support and wellbeing services provided by the sector.
The overarching theme of The Community Pharmacy Forward View is to fully integrate pharmacy teams with other local health and care services to boost care quality and access for patients, increase NHS efficiency and secure better health outcomes.
With support from the RPS English Pharmacy Board, the document's vision is centred on three key roles for the community pharmacy of the future: facilitating personalised care for people with long-term conditions; providing the first port of call for episodic healthcare advice and treatment; and offering the neighbourhood health and wellbeing hub.
Community pharmacy services should be radically enhanced and expanded help people obtain medicines safely and efficiently and use them as effectively as possible, it proposes. To achieve this, pharmacists and their teams will need to work in partnership each other, the people they support, and their colleagues across the wider health and care system to a variety of interventions and support to patients with LTCs. However, a new approach to funding will be necessary to enable pharmacy teams to work in this way, acceding to the report.
Elsewhere, Pharmacy Voice says it hopes that in future the habit of using or signposting to 'pharmacy first' for non-emergency episodic care will be ingrained in patient, public and professional behaviours. To facilitate this, systems that enable seamless triage to and referral from community pharmacy must be included in all local urgent care pathways and in the NHS 111 service, with personal health information available to pharmacists, who will be able to add to an individual's shared care record.
Diagnostics and point-of-care testing should be routinely available in pharmacy settings as well as facilities for making appointments with or speaking directly to other professionals and service providers, and pharmacists will be able to prescribe, and to supply products to people as if they had received a prescription from a GP.
In future, all pharmacies will operate as neighbourhood health and wellbeing centres, "providing the 'go-to' location for support, advice and resources on staying well and independent." As such, pharmacy teams will need to work closely with community leaders to identify and understand local assets and needs, develop related interventions and services, collect data on impact and outcomes and use this to continually improve their offer, the report notes.
Alastair Buxton, Director of NHS Services at PSNC, said the blueprint essentially describes how a thriving pharmacy network can help to support the "high performing, affordable health and care system" targeted in the NHS Five Year Forward View.
"The health and care system needs community pharmacy to play its part in improving the care of patients and helping people to stay healthy, so we hope that the Department of Health, NHS England and local service commissioners will positively engage with us to explore how this vision can inform the future commissioning of community pharmacy services," he said.
Pharmacy Voice's Chief Executive, Rob Darracott, said the plans may seem ambitious "but all of the proposals are based on innovative work of community pharmacy teams across the country, that is happening right now".
"What will make the difference in the future will be consistency of delivery, improving quality and impact across the whole country, enabled by effective planning and commissioning and a rigorous focus on implementation and continual improvement within the sector," says Pharmacy Voice.
Earlier this year, a report by NHS Alliance called for a new strategy for community pharmacy to help realise its full potential at the heart of community care.
Noting that there are around 11,700 'high-street' pharmacies in England alone, the group's co-chair, Dr Mark Spencer, said at the time: "We must recognise community pharmacy as a professional clinical retail healthcare environment and as an integral member of the primary care team", as well as its "unique position within the community and their ability to reduce demand within general practice as part of the solution to the crisis within general practice".
Commenting on the Forward View, Sandra Gidley, chair of the English Pharmacy Board, said: "We are committed to working with PSNC and Pharmacy Voice to make sure the views of patients the public as well as RPS members shape these proposals into practical changes that will improve care through making the most of community pharmacists skills".