Blog: A welcome in the Welsh hillside

Wales has a rich history of pharmacy, with the establishment of the Welsh School of Pharmacy in 1919 predating the NHS. Wales is the birth place of Aneurin Bevan, which make Wales and community pharmacy very much a part of this NHS heritage in its 70th year. In 2018 there are just over 700 pharmacies across Wales large and small. The Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) member companies operate nearly 50% of these contracts.

With a population of just over four million people spread across cities, towns, villages and rural landscapes, Wales is small yet perfectly formed. Just over 80 million prescriptions were dispensed last year by community pharmacies in Wales, spanning its varied geography.  Local communities are still tightly bound in Wales despite the loss of some of its major industries. Community pharmacy can often be found at the heart of these communities offering population healthcare on the doorstep.

So why is community pharmacy so welcome in Wales?

The last few years for community pharmacy across the UK have been challenging. For Wales, a supportive and empowering relationship between Welsh Government, the NHS and community pharmacy has shown that community pharmacy can and will deliver the transforming community pharmacy contractual framework.  Lead by Wales’s Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Andrew Evans, there has a been a clear vision to integrate community pharmacy into the NHS family and primary care arena. The introduction of collaborative working and quality payment schemes demonstrates the expertise and value community pharmacy offers the wider healthcare network. A drive to a more service-based activity for community has also been paramount to the continuing success of community pharmacy in Wales.

How has Wales embraced and integrated its Community Pharmacy Services?

The Choose Pharmacy IT platform has enabled community pharmacy to digitally deliver advanced and enhanced services. Offering an interface between community pharmacy to both secondary and primary care, it enables community pharmacy to be an inclusive and active part of the NHS Wales agenda.

The Choose Pharmacy platform is now implemented in almost 100% of the 716 pharmacies in Wales, allowing pharmacists to access or receive information from several Welsh NHS portals such as the Welsh Demographic Service (WDS) and the Welsh GP Record (WGPR). It allows the delivery of the electronic discharge advice letter (e-DAL) directly from secondary care to the pharmacy. This system enables services such as the Discharge Medicine Review Service (DMR), Seasonal Flu Vaccination Service, Emergency Medicine Service and the Common Ailments Service to be delivered in an instantaneous and digitally secure environment.

Just under 700 pharmacies now have the capability to deliver the Common Ailments Service across Wales, with more than 47,000 Common Ailment Service consultations having taken place to date. Interestingly, 83% of users stated they would have sought another healthcare professional’s advice without access to this service via community pharmacy.

Over 8,000 DMRs have now been completed in Welsh pharmacies, with around 7,000 medication discrepancies being identified, showing the 1:3 return for the NHS in Wales on every £1 spent on the DMR service. NHS Wales and the Welsh Government continue to invest in pharmacy and the platform. This autumn, a pilot of the Test and Treat service will offer an on-the-spot sore throat swab service, which will look to ease pressure on GP practices and help tackle antibiotic resistance.

This IT integration and foresight allows community pharmacy to be at the forefront of the prudent health care agenda for Wales ensuring patients are accessing the right care at the right place, reducing harm and working to the top of their capability.

As an integrated health care profession, community pharmacy can influence and support population care and ensure we are a Healthier Wales for our loved ones and children to live and thrive in. Wales should be proud of community pharmacy and its pharmacists in Wales. The journey of transformation for community pharmacy has just started and Wales will remain an inspirational and innovative place to practice. We hope there will always be a welcome in the hillsides.

Louise Allen

Policy and Planning Manager

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