The delivery of healthcare services by pharmacy could lead to a cost saving for the NHS of over £470 million per annum if they were rolled out to 11,100 pharmacies across England, according to new research. The findings from the Community Pharmacy Future (CPF) project – a collaboration between Boots UK, The Co-operative Pharmacy, LloydsPharmacy and Rowlands Pharmacy – provides new evidence to demonstrate how pharmacy can support patients, and in particular those with long-term health conditions.

The CPF project consisted of three pilots:
  • A Four or More Medicines Support Service in Wigan, which targeted patients over 65 years taking four or more medicines
  • A chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) Case Finding Service in the Wirral which aimed to identify patients with undiagnosed COPD for earlier interventions
  • A COPD Support Service in the Wirral, which provided support to patients to get the most from their medicines through improved understanding, adherence and technique
  • The services were designed and implemented to meet the needs of patients who are generally high users of NHS resources and may not be getting optimal benefits from medicines. 

John Nuttall, Managing Director, The Co-operative Pharmacy, comments: “Every day, millions of patients in England often take multiple medicines to manage long-term health conditions. Supporting these patients so that they understand and get the best from their medicines is one of the biggest challenges facing the NHS as the population ages. Community pharmacy can play an important role in supporting patients and working alongside other healthcare professionals in optimising the use and prescribing of medicines. The Community Pharmacy Future project has delivered robust evidence of the health economic and patient outcomes benefits from services delivered through community pharmacies and we are asking for these services to be commissioned from all pharmacies, so all patients and the NHS, can enjoy the benefits they offer.”

The Four or More Medicines Support Service pilot resulted in a significant increase in medicines adherence, a significant reduction in medical and self-treated falls and a significant increase in patient quality of life. If it were to be rolled out, it could result in £36 million per annum cost savings from reduced prescribing costs and hospital admissions as a result of adverse drug reactions, and £34 million per annum savings in hospital costs by reducing falls associated with fractures.

There are approximately 900,000 people diagnosed with COPD in England and a further 2.7 million people living with undiagnosed COPD. The COPD Case Finding Service pilot found that 57 percent of those screened were at risk of the condition and the research suggests that if rolled out, an annual benefit to the NHS could be £264 million from diagnosing patients earlier and a reduction in productivity costs. Additional lifetime savings from stopping smoking are estimated at £214.7 million.

The COPD Support Service results demonstrate a significant increase in medicines adherence, a reduction in overall NHS resource use by patients and a significant increase in patients’ quality of life. If the pilot were to be rolled out across England, the NHS could see annual benefits of £134.5 million, and societal benefits of £4.5 million per annum. Additional lifetime saving from stopping smoking are estimated at £86.3 million.

On behalf of NHS England, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, Dr Keith Ridge CBE said: “These important projects demonstrate again how community pharmacy teams can contribute to both improving outcomes for patients and value for the NHS. NHS England’s Improving health and patient care through community pharmacy – a call to action is a unique opportunity for all to influence the shape of primary care in the years to come and the results of this work are very timely.”

The results of the CPF project have been submitted for publication in a peer-review journal, and hope to be published later this year.