Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health and Social Services
The vital role community pharmacies play in our communities and in our health has never been more evident than in the sector’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am very pleased to now be in a position to confirm that immediately prior to the pandemic, I reached agreement with the representatives of community pharmacies to a three-year funding package, providing significant additional investment and long-term certainty for all pharmacies in Wales.
Over the period, the multi-year agreement will provide an additional £18.3m funding for pharmacies and increase overall funding for the sector by £8.6m per year by 2022-23. Importantly, it locks in the continuation of our reforms to ensure community pharmacy services meet the needs of people in Wales now and in the future.
This agreement will build on the significant progress we have already made together in creating truly clinical community pharmacies, meeting people’s and the NHS’ needs as an integral part of a strong primary care landscape.
In the last three years, we have more than doubled the funding available for pharmacies providing clinical services, making the most of the skills of pharmacists and helping people to access the most appropriate support to meet their needs. Pharmacies in every part of Wales now routinely provide the common ailment service, support to stop smoking and access to emergency contraception, taking pressure off other less appropriate parts of the NHS.
This agreement will not only increase funding for clinical services to ensure they are consistently delivered by every pharmacy in Wales, but will also ensure that Health boards can continue to improve the availability of prescribing pharmacists and truly innovative models of care like our sore throat test and treat service.
Further integration of community pharmacy with other primary care providers is critical if they are to provide the support the NHS, people and communities need. We will therefore provide funding specifically to create and support roles for a community pharmacy lead in every primary care cluster. These leads will champion the role of community pharmacies in primary care and ensure their potential is fully realised.
Contractual transformation will need to be accompanied by transformation in the community pharmacy workforce and the sector’s use of technology. As part of the agreement, we will provide further funding for pharmacists to train as independent prescribers and to support the development of pharmacy technicians. On technology, we will continue to develop, improve and enhance the Choose Pharmacy IT system and ensure it is used by all community pharmacies in Wales. We will also provide greater access to the Welsh GP record for pharmacists providing clinical services to support safe and effective care, roll out Wales’ national video consultation platform to pharmacies and provide 3,000 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians with access to the range of tools including NHS email, video conferencing and instant messaging, available through Office 365.
This agreement underpins our shared long-term plan to transform the role of community pharmacies in Wales. Clearly we will require a period of transition as the threat from COVID-19 diminishes and we return to routine care. Whilst we will make progress on workforce development and use of technology in the remainder of this financial year, the pandemic will mean some of the actions we had hoped to take forward this year will now begin in earnest in April 2021. My officials are working with the representatives of community pharmacy both to understand and resolve the financial consequences COVID-19 has had for the sector and to prepare for implementation in 2021.