Headlines: October 27th, 2004

Ballot papers are going out to pharmacists offering a new contract to provide a wider range of services and a revised basis for payment. It will give them an incentive to broaden the range of services they offer to their community. The principle of payments related to volume of medicines dispensed will be replaced by new arrangements to reward them for the range and quality of services they provide. If there is a ‘yes’ vote to accept the contract, the new services will start in April 2005.The new contract offers pharmacists payments for services such as checking people’s blood pressure, monitoring blood glucose levels, offering smoking cessation services and generally promoting healthy lifestyles. It also provides for supporting self-care and the management of common ailments and helping patients to get the best from their medicines.

The contract will encourage pharmacists to work more closely with GPs in a repeat dispensing scheme. Patients will be able to get a prescription from their GP for up to a year at a time and the medicines will be dispensed in instalments following an agreement between the prescriber and the pharmacist.

What has been described as a ‘new era’ for pharmacy seeks to make use of an untapped resource, integrate pharmacists more closely into primary care work and secure more effective working between health professionals. Primary care trusts are being urged to review local needs and work with local pharmacists to exploit opportunities that will maximise benefits to patients.