NHS Employers has launched new guidance for Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) to develop a Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment (PNA), in order to support and extend existing pharmaceutical services for the benefits of their local patients.

Last April’s government White Paper on the future of pharmacy in England had revealed a number of “real concerns” about medicines usage across the country. These included the fact that 50% of patients do not take their medicines as intended, 4%-5% of all hospital admissions are due to medicines-related problems and that 58% of patients do not receive information about the side effects of the medicines they are prescribed, the guidance notes.

It also reports that, while all PCTs in England had been advised back in 2004-5 to develop a PNA, those currently in existence vary considerably in scope and quality, and some have not been updated or renewed to take account of changing circumstances. “Raising the quality of PNAs should help drive higher standards of pharmaceutical service and improve medicines usage for the benefit of all,” it says.

The guidance is aimed at directors of commissioning and pharmacy leads in PCTs, but it “will also be of interest” to providers of pharmaceutical services, says NHS Employers. These providers have a crucial role to play in improving the health of local people, as they are often the first point of contact, especially for those who might otherwise struggle to access health services.

The work taken forward following the White Paper has been designed to help develop the role of community pharmacists to provide clinical as well as dispensing services, Sue Ashwell, negotiator on community pharmacy at NHS Employers, said yesterday at the launch of the new guidance. The organization hopes that the initiative will “support PCTs in preparing high-quality, robust PNAs to help them make more informed decisions on the provision of pharmacy services in their locality and take forward the world class commissioning agenda,” she added.