Below is the text of the speech made by Rosie Winterton, the then Minister of State for Health, on 25 October 2004.
Many thanks to Howard Stoate and the All Party Group for inviting me. I am sorry I could not be here for the start.
The Group has been unstinting in its support for community pharmacy and particularly for our theme tonight. I am very grateful for your work here.
Since taking up this post some 15 months ago, I have wanted to see community pharmacy fully involved, fully integrated and fully playing its part in our modernisation of NHS services.
We are well into that journey. In the four years since we published the NHS Plan and the subsequent Pharmacy in the Future, I believe patient experience has radically transformed. To take just three examples, waiting times have improved across all sectors, more than half a million people have successfully quit smoking through NHS smoking cessation services since April 2000 and more than half of all PCTs now have collaborative medicines management programmes running. These sort of achievements just would not have happened without community pharmacists playing their part.
Our journey isn’t over yet. There is a long way to go. Our NHS Improvement Plan promises even more radical developments, backed up by significant new investment in NHS services. With £90bn plus being spent on the NHS by 2007-08 we must make sure that investment is fully justified in terms of what a 21st century service should provide.
A NHS where patients have more choice and control. A NHS which fits the services to the patient – and is held accountable to them – and not the other way round.
A NHS which offers full support for people with long-term health conditions. Those services must be responsive. They must enable people to get the best out of their lives, understand their needs and learn from the experience. Those are the sort of services that are going to make the real differences in the future. Health services, not “ill-health” services.
So we also want a NHS which helps promote the best health for all. We must give a much greater focus to improving health, to reducing the health inequalities that sadly still persist and to preventing ill health generally.
Community pharmacy already does offer so much here. Provision of emergency hormonal contraception, smoking cessation schemes as I mentioned already and substance misuse services are just three examples where pharmacy makes a direct, relevant contribution to the health of local communities.
And it can do even more in the future to improve public health. So our forthcoming white paper on public health, and our pharmaceutical public health strategy, to be published next year will reflect pharmacy’s true potential.
Developments in last 12 months
In the last 12 months, the pace of change for community pharmacy has probably been more rapid than at any other time in the last 50 years. I know some people fear change. But I would also say that in that same period, community pharmacy has probably featured more prominently in discussions about how to improve services, how its potential can be more widely recognised by the NHS and other health professionals, and its ability to respond innovatively and creatively has been more openly acknowledged.
That can only be a good thing. It is what I hoped for when I launched our Vision for Pharmacy last year. That identified and aligned our ambitions for pharmacy clearly and rightfully alongside our ambitions for the NHS as a whole.
At the same time we also made clear our intention to reform the current structure governing who can provide services and the control of entry system – largely unreformed in the last 20 years.
So I hope it is recognised that the package of reforms which I announced this August is a balanced package. It will open up the market. I do expect it to be easier for new entrants to come in. But they will do so because they are improving access to, and the choice of, local pharmacy services for patients, putting their needs first.
Increasing regulatory freedoms will encourage greater innovation and excellence by all – whether an existing or a new contractor. But checks and balances will ensure community pharmacies’ vital role is maintained, safeguarding in particular ready access to pharmacies in poorer and rural areas.
New contractual framework for community pharmacy
Which brings me to the heart of the meeting tonight. The new contractual framework. I have been wanting to talk about this for a very long time – as many of you will know. So I am delighted to be able to say – for the first time – that the PSNC, the NHS Confederation and the Department have agreed the final details of the framework. I would like to congratulate all those involved in the negotiations who have made this happen.
For more than anything else, this will bring home to community pharmacy the significance of the wider innovations and developments I have been talking about this evening. And it will do so in the most meaningful and positive way. Nationally agreed essential and advanced services, underpinned by clinical governance and continuing professional development requirements, will provide the bedrock. And, in addition, PCTs will be able to commission enhanced services to meet specific local needs.
I believe this heralds significant benefits for patients. For example, people will no longer have to make frequent visits to their GPs when they need their next prescription. Their local pharmacy will be able to offer the support people need to self-care and manage common ailments. And pharmacies will be a convenient alternative to the GP surgery for people who need regular checks on blood pressure or blood glucose levels
Now we have reached agreement, we will be working just as hard towards the new contractual framework going live from 1 April 2005. This of course assumes a positive response to the PSNC’s ballot, which is what I very much hope we will see in late November.
Given this, the way will be clear for community pharmacy to take up its rightful place as a full partner in the provision of NHS primary care services. There are very real opportunities for PCTs and pharmacies to grasp here. Pharmacy service providers can make a real contribution to achieving local performance targets and the Government’s national public service targets, addressed within local delivery plans.
So I would urge those from the NHS here tonight to build on this exciting news, to press ahead with forging new and dynamic relations with community pharmacy and to explore the potential for transforming patient services. The Department will work with the NHS to provide support and training in the months ahead. But the time to act is now. The new framework offers opportunities as never before.