Sandra GidleyJanuary 18 2018

Delays in releasing funding promised to support community pharmacy’s role in integrated care is contributing to the current hospital pressures, Sandra Gidley has warned.

As chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s England Board, Ms Gidley (pictured) has called on NHS England to use the Pharmacy Integration Fund to accelerate ‘referral to pharmacy’ schemes to help prevent readmissions into already overstretched hospitals.

Addressing the Westminster Health Forum this week, she highlighted how “referral to pharmacy schemes have been shown to reduce prescribing errors, ensure better value from medicines and reduce readmissions to hospital. Patients who are lucky enough to be in areas already providing this service have less chance of being readmitted to hospital if their community pharmacist is provided with information about changes to their medicines. This is great for patients and will also help reduce the numbers of people needing overstretched hospital services.

"However, examples of integrated practice are still unfortunately too few, when the Fund could be used to spread them more widely,” she said.

“We recognise various factors contributed to delays in some projects being supported by the Pharmacy Integration Fund, but given the immense pressure facing the NHS and the level of concern among health leaders, it is now more important than ever make the most of the pharmacy profession, in all settings, to support patient care.

“We now hope and expect to see more projects being supported by the Fund this year and beyond – a sentiment I know is echoed across the political parties. At a time when the NHS is facing pressures like never before it will be nothing short of a scandal if we don’t make the best use of the clinical skills of frontline pharmacists.”

In December 2017, health minister Steve Brine had advised the All-Party Pharmacy Group of a “significant underspend” of the £40 million that had been pledged in 2017-18, with only £18m spent at that point.

Sir Kevin Barron, APPG Chair, had said in response to Mr Brine’s admission: “The full PhIF budget of £42 million fell a long way short of making up for the funding cuts imposed on community pharmacy by the Department, but to now find that less than half of it has actually been spent is very worrying. What’s more, there is no indication of what the new PhIF budget for the next financial year will be and I am concerned there may not even be one.”

Links:
RPS statement   
Today’s Pharmacist coverage of APPG PIF queries