Community pharmacy plays a vital role in our health service and that is why Ministers have recently announced a set of reforms to improve the service, making better use of pharmacists' valuable clinical skills, and allocating taxpayers' money more efficiently.
Following recent growth, 40 per cent of pharmacies are now in clusters of three or more meaning that two-fifths of pharmacies are within 10 minutes' walk of 2 or more other pharmacies. The community pharmacy budget has also gone up by 40 per cent over the last decade.
The current funding system for community pharmacy does not always promote efficient, high quality services and the sector could be better integrated with the rest of the NHS.
To provide certainty, the Government has announced a two-year funding settlement for community pharmacy, with pharmacies receiving £2.687 billion funding in 2016/17 and £2.592 billion in 2017/18.
The Government has recently announced reforms to simplify the outdated payment structure for community pharmacy which will better allocate patient resources and allow savings to be reinvested into patient care. For the first time, the Government will pay pharmacies for the quality of service they provide, not just the volume of prescriptions they dispense.
By embedding pharmacy into the urgent care pathway, these reforms will relieve pressure on other parts of the NHS. Patients who need urgent repeat prescription medicines will be referred from NHS 111 directly to community pharmacies and there will be national coverage of minor ailments services delivered through pharmacies by April 2018. In addition, a new Pharmacy Integration Fund will support additional programmes to better embed pharmacists' clinical skills within NHS services.
A new Pharmacy Access Scheme will also be established in areas where there are fewer pharmacies and higher health needs in order to protect patient access.