• Trusts in Berkshire and Surrey joint pharmacy service
  • Leaders looking at whether they can copy existing pathology joint venture
  • Carter review suggested trusts could make savings by tackling variation within pharmacy

Trusts in Berkshire and Surrey are considering creating a pharmacy joint venture modelled on their existing pathology service.

Berkshire Surrey Pathology Services covers Frimley Health Foundation Trust, Royal Berkshire FT, Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals FT and Royal Surrey County Hospital FT. It was set up in 2012 and now covers more than 2 million people. It is thought to have delivered significant savings for the trusts through economies of scale and providing some services on fewer sites.

Trust chief executives are examining whether the same approach could be used for pharmacy services.

A report to Frimley Health’s board this month said trust leaders had agreed in principle to look into whether a similar joint venture for pharmacy was feasible. The focus would be on making best use of facilities such as Frimley’s manufacturing unit, and aseptic capacity at Royal Berkshire and Royal Surrey.

The report said: “In addition, there is an opportunity for the accountable care system to better align GP/consultant prescribing. East Nottingham has saved over £8m in moving to a joint formulary for its system.”

However, the paper concluded: “As this process has only just begun, it is impossible and inappropriate at this stage to speculate how or whether it will progress and what any potential outcome might be.”

Pathology and some pharmacy services share similar issues such as how close to the patient services need to be, opportunities for bigger units covering more than one hospital, and timeliness and transport. The Carter review suggested there could be savings through addressing variations within pharmacy and urged that clinical pharmacists be freed up to spend more time with patients.

Aamer Safdar, a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English pharmacy board, suggested joint working between trusts could become more common, either at sustainability and transformation partnership level or through existing relationships between trusts.

But he added there may be challenges around expanding some facilities to provide services to a wider area.

He said: “Boards are probably thinking around estates and the capital investment that needs to go in. If you are going to expand an aseptic unit, you will need the space to do that. That costs money.”

Meanwhile, East Sussex Healthcare Trust is consulting staff on the proposed closure of its pharmacy manufacturing unit, which employs 17 people. The trust said: “This consultation is being carried out in response to a number of operational and strategic challenges, which are expected to impact on the unit’s future sustainability and commercial viability.”

The unit at Eastbourne District General Hospital makes unlicensed medicines under a “specials” licence from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. If the closure goes ahead, staff would be supported in finding other suitable jobs within the trust.