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Appoint Chief Pharmacists and collaborate with industry to unlock value-based medicines optimisation  

The latest report in Public Policy Project’s Medicines and Pharmacy programme calls for transformation across the pharmacy sector to unlock medicines optimisation which creates true system value.
medicines optimisation
  • Medicines are the second highest cost to the NHS after staffing and present an untapped opportunity to meet ICS strategic priorities and deliver better value for money.
  • Outcomes-centred contractual frameworks and greater stakeholder collaboration between the NHS and industry is required to unlock value-based medicines optimisation.
  • Pharmacy leadership at ICB level combined with broader support for the sector is required to unlock its full potential and enable the true integration of pharmacy services. 

Download the report here.


The latest report in Public Policy Project’s Medicines and Pharmacy programme calls for transformation across the pharmacy sector to unlock medicines optimisation which creates true system value. The report highlights that medicines optimisation has significant potential to contribute to delivering integrated care priorities, such as improving population health and reducing inequalities. As ICSs grapple with financial challenges, medicines, as the second highest cost to the NHS, represent a critical opportunity to improve patient outcomes and deliver better value for money. 

The launch of the Pharmacy First service earlier this year brought attention to the value that pharmacy, as an often-underutilised sector, can bring to wider health and care. However, further support is needed to maximise the value of medicines optimisation, which could unlock investment across systems through impacting upon patient flow, hospital admissions, and community care. To enable this, the report advocates the need for contractual frameworks which allow pharmacy to deliver patient-centric and outcomes-based medicines optimisation interventions. However, as the NHS transitions to a systemised delivery of health and care, barriers to collaboration have made the delivery of pharmacy priorities more challenging.  

The report demonstrates that greater stakeholder collaboration, particularly between the NHS and industry, is necessary. To achieve this, support for the UK pharmacy sector as it faces current financial and workforce pressures is crucial. The recommendations contained in the report call for robust pharmacy leadership structures, more career development opportunities and support for the workforce to enable the delivery of strategic pharmacy priorities and further the integration of services. Only when pressures are addressed and pharmacy is elevated to a strategic partner at system level, can the sector take a pivotal role in delivering medicines optimisation which contributes to high quality and cost-effective patient care.  

Yousaf Ahmad, ICB Chief Pharmacist, NHS Frimley:  “As we navigate the complexities of integrated care delivery, this report highlights a significant opportunity for pharmacy to contribute in a more meaningful way. Through more effective collaboration to deliver medicines optimisation, pharmacy has the potential to drive positive patient outcomes and produce value-based efficiencies.   

“Through synthesising insights from a range of expert pharmacy professionals, this report offers actionable recommendations to support pharmacy to reach its full potential. It is our hope that stakeholders across the sector, NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care will consider these in future reforms.” 


Recommendations: 

  1. NHS England should provide a template mandating ICBs to deploy a distributed leadership model across all ICSs. This should include the appointment of a Chief Pharmacist or similar senior leader of a pharmacy background.
  2. ICBs should appoint pharmacy leadership at place and neighbourhood levels to ensure communication that drives the alignment of system priorities with local population health needs. 
  3. NHS England must facilitate a top-down shift in how the value of medicines optimisation is framed by implementing medicines policies and contractual frameworks which prioritise patient outcomes over cost savings. 
  4. NHS England should provide greater support for collaboration between community pharmacy and the acute sector to ensure the Discharge Medicines Service (DMS) is fully optimised.
  5. To help address the community pharmacy workforce shortage, NHS England should implement an ARRS-equivalent scheme for community pharmacy. This funding would enable the transformation and implementation support required to significantly bolster the workforce.
  6. ICBs should work closely with professional bodies and regulators to ensure career progression structures and contractual arrangements allow pharmacists to undertake roles that facilitate cross-sector working.
  7. With an increased number of trainees entering the system, the opportunity to develop and retain the pharmacy workforce should be fully leveraged. Infrastructure akin to the medical deanery model should be implemented to enable joint posts and support for pharmacists’ professional development throughout the entirety of their careers.

Key information 

Thank you to Spirit Health, who sponsored the roundtable and have supported the production of this report. The programme of work is being run in partnership with Public Policy Projects (PPP), who have retained full editorial control of the report. 

We would also like to thank the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) for their continued support and contribution to PPP’s Medicines and Pharmacy programme.  

About Public Policy Projects 

Public Policy Projects is an organisation operating at the heart of health and life sciences policy delivery. We bring together senior leaders and practitioners in the public and private health and life sciences sectors to find realistic solutions to the most pressing issues relating to health and care delivery.  

We facilitate effective collaboration between public and private sector organisations. We help businesses to grow their profile within the NHS and wider public sector. In turn, we support public sector leaders and organisations with practical recommendations on implementing policy to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for local populations. 

For further information about PPP’s Medicines and Pharmacy programme, please contact Samantha Semmeling samantha.semmeling@publicpolicyprojects.com 

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