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Pharmacy Voice warns on limits of localism as MPs recommend local commissioning of primary care



Pharmacy Voice warns on limits of localism as MPs recommend local commissioning of primary care

Responding to the parliamentary Health Select Committee report Commissioning: Further Issues, Pharmacy Voice is warning that efficiency and consistency must not be “sacrificed on the altar of localism”.  The report recommends significant changes to the Government’s NHS reforms, including that local ‘NHS Commissioning Authorities’ should assume responsibility for commissioning the full range of primary care, including pharmacy, dentistry, optometry and general practice.

The MPs also call for commissioning arrangements to be broadly based, to include in decision-making a wider range of clinical stakeholders than general practice.

Rob Darracott, chief executive of Pharmacy Voice said:

“We welcome wholeheartedly the Health Select Committee’s calls for greater inclusivity and transparency in NHS decisions.  Commissioning can only make best use of NHS resources and be truly transformative if it is characterised by genuine accountability and partnership with all frontline providers, including community pharmacists.

But robust governance at a local level is not by itself a convincing argument for all decisions to be made there.  Efficiency and consistency must not be sacrificed on the alter of localism.  Pharmacy’s experience of fickle local commissioning over recent years suggests that patients will lose out if there are not clear national guidelines and service frameworks for key services.   Whilst a degree of local customisation is desirable, the government must take responsibility for ensuring universal access to critical services.

The new NHS Commissioning Board should have the opportunity to move pharmacy and other services forward in a less piecemeal fashion that has been the case under existing, PCT-led arrangements.

National templates would allow local commissioners to use their local knowledge to focus on priorities, accessibility of services and the degree of investment, rather than duplicating work better done at a national level.  Furthermore, it makes more feasible the collection of comparable outcomes data.

The Health Select Committee has reflected many of the concerns of health professional groups, including pharmacy, over what might be the unintended consequences of the Government’s NHS reform package.   We look forward to further discussions with members of the Committee in the months ahead, as they continue to reflect on the reforms.  All members of the Committee have received a copy of the Pharmacy Voice blueprint for better health, which we hope will form the basis for ongoing discussions on the role of community pharmacy within the NHS in England.

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