Providing high quality pharmaceutical care and services to patients, when and where they need them, is the key to implementing the NHS plan for pharmacy, Health Minister Lord Philip Hunt told delegates at the British Pharmaceutical Conference in Birmingham today.
In his keynote address Lord Hunt set out radical changes to pharmacy at every level which will offer key benefits to patients, to include better access to services, more support for patients using their medicines, and high quality services provided by well trained and appropriately skilled staff.
Key points of the National Plan for pharmacy include:
- By 2004 electronic prescriptions will be used routinely, with GPs e-mailing prescriptions directly to the pharmacist.
- By 2004 patients will be able to get repeat prescriptions from their pharmacist without having to see their GP.
- By 2002 any person in England who calls NHS Direct will be referred to their local pharmacist if appropriate.
- 500 new one-stop primary care centres around the country which will allow pharmacists to work alongside GPs, dentists, opticians, health visitors and social workers.
- The improvement of out of hours pharmacy provision.
- The establishment of an Action Team to promote better use of prescribed medicines.
Subject to legislation, Local Pharmaceutical Services will pilot new ways in which to organise and pay for community pharmacy, offering
greater flexibility than under the current national contract, and enabling pharmacists to meet the local needs of patients.
Speaking at the launch today, Lord Hunt said:
"Pharmacists are highly qualified professionals whose skills have been under-utilised for too long. Our vision for pharmacy in the future is one where pharmacists spend more time focusing on
individual patients' clinical needs, and in particular helping them get the most from their medicines.
"The electronic transmission of prescriptions will enable GPs to e-mail pharmacists directly, no longer having to rely on pieces of paper. Today I can announce that I am inviting IT companies to bid for the initial pilot projects.
"And e-pharmacy will provide further exciting opportunities for pharmacists and patients. If professional standards and safeguards are in place the Government believes there is no reason why medicines should not be sold or dispensed electronically. E-pharmacy already offers people new ways of purchasing over the counter (OTC) medicines and having private prescriptions dispensed. We believe this choice should now be made available to people with NHS prescriptions.
Therefore we will be reviewing current NHS rules to remove obstacles to pharmacies wanting to offer this service.
"The NHS Plan acknowledges that our health service does not do all it should to help people get maximum benefit from their medicines. Too many medicines are wasted and far too many people suffer avoidable side effects and complications. To overcome this we need to involve patients much more in decisions about their treatment, and provide better services to patients once they have been prescribed medication.
"Over the next three years we will be investing at least £30m of new money to ensure that patients get more help from pharmacists in using their medicines.
"The Government will be discussing with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee changes in terms of remuneration for community pharmacists, and will be establishing minimum standards to promote and reward high quality services, not just volumes of prescriptions."