Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport
Today, the UK Government announced proposals to cut the funding available to community pharmacies in England from 1 December 2016. The cuts amount to a reduction of 4% to the sector in England in 2016-17 and over 7% in 2017-18.
Following the announcement, I want to clarify the position in Wales.
Let me be clear, the community pharmacy sector is a fundamental part of a strong primary care service. This is why the programme this government set out in Taking Wales Forward commits to invest in community pharmacies to take pressure off our GP services, reducing unnecessary appointments and making sure people are able to see the right professional in the right setting at the right time.
As a demonstration of our commitment to invest in realising the benefits of the community pharmacy network, earlier this month we began to roll out the Choose Pharmacy IT system to community pharmacies in Wales. Starting with all pharmacies in Betsi Cadwaladr and Cwm Taf university health boards, Choose Pharmacy will roll out to over half of pharmacies in Wales by March 2018 and will fully integrate community pharmacy with GPs and hospitals. This will provide pharmacists with access to people’s individual health records, enable discharge information to be transferred from hospitals to a patient’s nominated community pharmacy and facilitate commissioning of the common ailment service by health boards.
However you will know that since 2005, the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework has been agreed on an England and Wales basis. I therefore understand the cuts in England are of concern for pharmacy contractors in Wales. Let me reassure you, the health and social services budget in Wales for the current and next financial year does not include any proposals to reduce investment in community pharmacy.
That said the changes provide an opportunity to reflect on whether the considerable investment we make in the sector currently, delivers a community pharmacy service which will meet the needs of the people in Wales in the future.
In the longer term, maintaining the current level of investment will be conditional on new arrangements for community pharmacies. New arrangements must ensure that community pharmacies: provide a greater range of clinically focused services; demonstrate a commitment to improving service quality; contribute to reducing medicines waste; utilise skill mix and automation more effectively to release time for pharmacists to deliver pharmaceutical care, both in and out of the pharmacy; and commit to workforce development and improvements in IT infrastructure.
I have asked my officials to consult, with Community Pharmacy Wales, on how these priorities will be delivered and how pharmacies in Wales will begin the transition to a more clinically focused service from April 2017. I will make a further statement to Assembly Members once the consultation has concluded.