The 5YFV sets the foundations, now we need to build the future of the NHS together

Cormac Tobin, Managing Director of LloydsPharmacy, part of Celesio UK

Today Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS in England, delivered his much anticipated Five Year Forward View of how the organisation needs to change in order to meet future health challenges. People are living for longer, often with multiple long term health conditions, and the NHS needs to grow and evolve in order to meet the increasing demand society is placing on it.

Over recent years the issues the NHS is facing have been widely reported, along with a catalogue of initiatives to alleviate these pressures, so people could be forgiven for being a bit sceptical of yet more rhetoric. However, as I read through the report I was encouraged and I welcome the approach that Simon and his team propose.

The funding challenge and predictions for the future are stark reminders of the imperative for change.  At its core, the Forward View promotes more emphasis on prevention, empowering patients and engaging with communities, helping people ‘get the right care, at the right time, in the right place’.  These themes resonate with our experience and we have been working hard to offer patients more healthcare information, advice and support for many years. After all, 1.2 million people visit around 11,500 community pharmacies in England for health-related reasons every day and by our very nature we are easy to access and have longer opening hours than GP surgeries – including weekends.

I am therefore encouraged when Simon Stevens commits to supporting a  greater understanding that pharmacies and online resources can help the public deal with common ailments and that he recognises the enhanced role pharmacy can play in the future of the NHS. Indeed, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society this week issued results of a study that found the NHS could save £1 billion if pharmacies in England offered a minor ailment service as they do in Scotland.

Keen to demonstrate our capabilities and how we can add value, we launched a number of First Care Clinics at the end of last year. The clinics provide patients with an alternative treatment pathway to walk-in centres or GP surgeries for the treatment of common ailments and minor injuries. We are now looking at other options on where LloydsPharmacy First Care Clinics can be best situated to make the biggest impact on the healthcare environment, truly alleviating GP surgeries and A&E units by providing successful and efficient patient care. However, we will not be able to roll out the service across the country without funding from the NHS.

While I do believe the 5YFV is a positive step, for community pharmacy it doesn’t go far enough. We’d like to see more details on the way we can help, solutions that go beyond urgent and emergency care.

A great example of how we can support prevention and early diagnosis is the LloydsPharmacy Type 2 diabetes screening and blood pressure measurements services, both of which are free. In the 11 years since we launched the Type 2 diabetes screening we have delivered more than 1.5 million consultations helping to make people more aware of the condition, the lifestyle factors that can put you at risk and how to reduce your chances of developing the condition. If the NHS had provided those consultations it would have cost over £18.5 million. 

Today’s announcement from NHS England reiterates that to make the NHS sustainable new models of delivering care are needed. It is going to take a joint effort from government, business and society to secure a future for a free at the point of use service.

The 5YFV is an excellent road map for the future but in order to make effective change and deliver real patient benefit we need to go further. There needs to be an increase in collaboration between the NHS and other healthcare providers, especially community pharmacy, which is ideally placed to provide patients with effective and convenient treatments in their own communities without compromising on care. We need to galvanise the aspirations of the forward view, show leadership and help to shape a fit for purpose NHS which can be sustained for many years to come.

UK, 23 October 2014