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Pharmacists eye a shared QOF

By Nigel Praities

Pharmacy leaders call for incentives as Connecting for Health backs their demands for access to the care record

GPs may have to share the QOF with pharmacists under plans submitted to the Department of Health in the wake of its pharmacy white paper.

Major pharmacist organisations, including the profession's negotiating body, are backing proposals in a School of Pharmacy report for shared incentive payments.

Pharmacists are also set to gain access to the electronic care record – another key recommendation – after Connecting for Health accepted the ‘case had been made'.

The School of Pharmacy report, submitted to Lord Darzi and the chief pharmacist, says pharmacists will be working closely with GPs to deliver clinical services and should be rewarded through a shared QOF.

‘There is an urgent need to develop new payment and information systems to facilitate better joint working between GPs and community pharmacists,' it concludes.

The report calls for pharmacists to be given responsibility for delivering vascular checks, access to the care record and an ‘enhanced' role in prescribing through medicines use reviews – which already cost the NHS £20m a year.

Co-author Professor David Taylor, professor of pharmaceutical and public health policy at the School of Pharmacy, insisted GPs had ‘nothing to fear': ‘If we hit our targets, shouldn't we collectively benefit? Limited competition is of value, and the NHS should not ignore it, but most of the focus will be on collaboration with GPs.'

The Department of Health said it was looking at introducing indicators to ‘demonstrate the quality and outcomes of pharmacy services', but had no plans to share existing GP remuneration with pharmacists.

Mr David Pruce, director of practice and quality improvement at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said it saw the proposals as a framework for increasing pharmacy involvement in primary care: ‘The QOF has been enormously beneficial for general practice, so why not have some sort of QOF or a shared QOF that pharmacy can contribute to as long as it is not seen as taking money from GPs?'

The National Pharmacy Association is also supporting the idea of a shared QOF.

And Sue Sharpe, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, said it was ‘keen to consider' financial incentives to encourage collaboration. ‘We recognise incentives for GPs and pharmacies must be aligned to remove barriers to changes and allow pharmacy to deliver a range of services,' she said.

But Dr Bill Beeby, chair of the GPC clinical and prescribing subcommittee, said the plans could be a ‘disaster' for patients who may ‘fall through the gap'.

‘These plans are crazy. I just don't see how pharmacists can buy a slice of the QOF without making it very cumbersome and risking safety,' he said.

Pharmacy organisations also said they would push hard for access to the Summary Care Record. A Connecting for Health spokesperson confirmed ‘the case had been fully made' and that it would be consulting on the issue.

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