News story

New plans to modernise community pharmacies

Changes include a reward system for high quality service and a pharmacy access scheme for isolated areas with higher health needs.

Pharmacist serving a customer

Plans to modernise community pharmacies, which will ensure a better quality service for patients and relieve pressure in other parts of the NHS, have been announced by the government today (20 October). These changes follow an extensive consultation earlier this year.

This forms part of the government’s ambition to modernise the community pharmacy sector and make the most of pharmacists’ skills in all health care settings, including GP surgeries and care homes, to provide the highest level of care to patients.

Health Minister David Mowat said:

Patients deserve the best possible care which is why this government is committed to building a modern pharmacy sector that is fit for the 21st century. Pharmacists are a vital source of knowledge and information, as well as providing vital services such as flu jabs, health checks and, of course, dispensing vital medicines.

Far from jeopardising services, our modernisation package will make the most of these skills and transform how pharmacists and their teams operate in the community, ensuring the public receives the very best care in the places they need it, 7 days a week.

New measures, supported by NHS England, will include the first ever reward system for pharmacies that are providing a high quality service.

The government currently funds community pharmacy at £2.8 billion a year. The way community pharmacies are rewarded and funded for NHS services was last reviewed 10 years ago.

Over the last 10 years the budget for community pharmacy has gone up by more than 40%. The number of community pharmacies in England is over 11,500, which is up by 18% in 10 years, and two-fifths of pharmacies in England are within 10 minutes’ walk of 2 or more other pharmacies.

The average pharmacy costs £220,000 a year for NHS pharmaceutical services, including fixed £25,000 ‘establishment payments’ that most pharmacies receive annually, regardless of the service they provide. The new package will phase out the establishment payment and place greater emphasis on rewarding pharmacies for the quality of services provided to the public.

Government spending for pharmacy will remain at around £2.6 billion a year, and we will ensure that those people in isolated areas with higher health needs will have access to a pharmacy through a new pharmacy access scheme.

Pharmacies that might have narrowly missed out on the pharmacy access scheme funding through the distance criteria, but are in an area of high deprivation, will be eligible to ask for a review. This will cover pharmacies that are located in the top 20% most deprived areas in England and are 0.8 miles or more from another pharmacy and are critical to access. Funding for successful reviews will be made available as required from outside of this package.

The savings made will go into improved NHS services throughout the country, to ensure that patients get the highest-quality provision possible.

Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England Dr Keith Ridge said:

The public can be reassured that while efficiencies are being asked of community pharmacy just as they are of other parts of the NHS, there is still sufficient funding to ensure there are accessible and convenient local NHS pharmacy services across England. The NHS is committed to a positive future for pharmacists and community pharmacy.

NHS England has secured £42 million of funding for 2016 to 2018 for a new Pharmacy Integration Fund being announced today. It will support community pharmacy to develop new clinical pharmacy services, working practices and online support to meet the public’s expectations for a modern NHS. In addition, the NHS is now funding a big expansion of 1,500 clinical pharmacists in local primary care clinics and GP surgeries.

New measures, supported by NHS England, will include the first ever reward system for pharmacies. The £75 million Quality Payment Scheme will see pharmacies receive funding based on their ability to provide a quality service to the public. Some of the measures that will be used to demonstrate this quality include:

  • showing that they are a ‘healthy living-pharmacy’ to prevent health problems developing
  • publishing the results of their patient experience surveys so people can make an informed choice about which pharmacy to go to
  • training their staff in how to support patients with conditions such as dementia

NHS England are also introducing a £42 million Pharmacy Integration Fund to improve how pharmacists, their teams and community pharmacy operates within the NHS as a whole.

This will help relieve the pressure on GPs and A&Es. By incentivising pharmacists to make their services available in a range of settings such as GP surgeries and care homes, patients will receive the right service in the right place and this will ultimately lead to fewer people having to go to A&E or attending emergency GP appointments.

Beginning in December 2016, NHS England will be working to embed pharmacy into NHS urgent care by expanding the services already provided by community pharmacies in England for those who need urgent repeat prescriptions and treatment for urgent minor ailments and common conditions. This will help to relieve GPs’ workloads, and help to bring about real practical long-term change.

See list of pharmacies that will receive pharmacy access payments and more details on community pharmacy modernisation.

Published 20 October 2016