Views on the NHS Long Term Plan for England

Toby Anderson, McKesson UK CEO, reflects on the NHS Long Term Plan.

It’s good to get clarity on the vision for the NHS so the NHS Long Term Plan, published this week, is a significant document.

The key themes of giving people more control over their own health, a focus on community care and making better use of digital technology are important steps as we face the challenges of growing demand for healthcare services, but it will be the interpretation of the strategy by local NHS organisations and others that will really deliver the improvements that are needed.

Although the announcement refers to reforms of reimbursement and supply arrangements for community pharmacy, there is no detail as to what this might entail. We’re crying out for a new funding model, one that is modern and reflects the current and future role of community pharmacy and its healthcare professionals.  Our negotiators must press for rapid developments in this area.

At McKesson UK we have used our expertise in delivery of care in patients’ homes to expand the service, enabling more choice for patients. Working with several NHS hospitals our nurses are delivering treatments in a dedicated LloydsPharmacy Healthcare Centre based in the heart of the community – this includes treatments that would otherwise necessitate a trip to hospital, such as chemotherapy and other infusions. Convenience for the patient; capacity increased in hospitals.

Bolstering community resources to ensure quicker discharge makes absolute sense and we have been working with several Trusts to see how we can help get patients back in their own home as soon as possible. We are already providing services such as enabling patients to collect their discharge hospital medicines in their local LloydsPharmacy and we’re looking at other ways in which we can play our part in moving services locally.

The shift of the NHS to focus more on prevention is an obvious – if necessary – step in the right direction. We know how costly emergency admissions are and, if these are preventable, we should direct our limited resources to where they can have the biggest impact on survival rates.

Community Pharmacy has long been seen as a destination for screening services, indeed LloydsPharmacy pioneered pharmacy diabetes testing since 2003. Disease prevention, such as strokes, heart problems and cancer is an area where community pharmacy can play more of a role. A recent partnership between The University of Manchester and Greater Manchester Cancer Vanguard created an opportunity for patients to assess their risk of having cancer in a community pharmacy. A pilot in two of our pharmacies in Manchester used an online tool as part of a consultation to help identify symptoms that could indicate the presence of cancer. Participants were given an estimate of their risk of having cancer and individuals with high risk scores were referred to a GP for further investigations to help improve early diagnosis of the disease.

The Community Pharmacy Futures project demonstrated that using pharmacy care plans to support patients with long-term conditions can reduce healthcare costs by up to 21%. There is a well-established evidence base for the value of community pharmacy services, as highlighted by the Community Pharmacy Clinical Services review carried out by Richard Murray, many of which could support the rapid delivery of elements of the long term plan.

Digital technology will be key to taking the pressure off primary care. We mustn’t lose this opportunity to get patients using online health services, which include booking appointments, requesting repeat prescriptions and accessing personal medical information. These may seem like small things, but on a national scale, less administration could release NHS staff to see more patients in need – as well as empowering patients to take control of their own health.

Through our LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor, for instance, patients can consult a doctor without having to book a face-to-face appointment and may be prescribed medicines, which can then be collected in pharmacy or delivered to their door. And as part of the national Electronic Prescription Service scheme, our pharmacies are helping to ensure that patients are able to collect their prescriptions quickly and easily, reducing bureaucracy for all.

By fully optimising the pharmacy network and workforce there is opportunity to deliver increased capacity and divert demand as well as achieving health outcome benefits, in addition to cost efficiency.

The Long Term Plan is ultimately an opportunity for healthcare providers to think more innovatively about how they respond to the changing landscape. I’d like to think that we are leading the way.  Let’s sort out the pharmacy contract so we can really make it fly.