Autumn Statement 2014: Cormac Tobin comments on the role of community pharmacy

By Cormac Tobin, Managing Director of Celesio UK

George Osborne’s autumn budget review today confirms a £2bn boost to NHS funding that we’ve heard murmurs about for a little while. The chancellor branded it a “down payment” for the NHS Five Year Forward View.

Critics will undoubtedly pick apart the spending, claiming that it’s not enough to avert a crisis in a service that is already overworked and underfunded.

Yes, the figure may seem like a drop in the ocean considering the predicted NHS funding gap of £30bn, however I believe that the commitment of £2bn today is the start of making the five year forward view a reality, and given the General Election in May 2015, the funding window is limited.

Yesterday, Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt outlined that we are at a turning point for the NHS, and that the extra money was not just about putting more funds into the existing system.  It’s encouraging that not all of the £2bn is earmarked for more of the same, but will help to lay the groundwork for the future.

Mr Hunt also talks of four pillars from government which will support the delivery of the forward view; a strong economy with sustainable growth in NHS funding; changing models of provision with integrated care delivered closer to home; harnessing innovation and a culture of safe compassionate care where patients come first.

So how does the money committed today translate into action and the delivery of the strategy? Whilst a large chunk of this money will be needed to sustain existing frontline services, some will help to establish new provider models in primary care, for example multispecialty community teams.

Community pharmacy has a significant role to play in this new order, a sentiment echoed by the Secretary of State yesterday. New care models don’t have to mean massive transformations to care provision though: we are already doing great work in supporting patients in communities, wrapping services around people with long term conditions and addressing the prevention agenda. Our pharmacy teams can offer blood pressure and diabetes screening; asthma and pain management and so many more services that can save patients a trip to their GP or A&E department – while saving other frontline NHS services time and money.

Also today, a new manifesto for community pharmacy was launched in Parliament co-written by Pharmacy Voice, PSNC and IPF. This demonstrates the community pharmacy sector’s ambition to bring more people into pharmacies and make a mark on reducing the strain on the NHS, such as the estimated £1.1bn spent annually treating common ailments like coughs and sore throats.

We look forward to working with our NHS colleagues and government in the delivery of the Five Year Forward View and securing a prominent role for pharmacy in how services are transformed and delivered for the next five years and beyond.

UK | December 3 2014