Published: 11/11/2004, Volume II4, No. 5931 Page 8

Primary care trusts will be expected to run up to six public health promotion campaigns a year as part of a new contract expected to be approved by community pharmacists this month.

Under the new contract, pharmacists would relieve pressure on GP practices and take a more central role in promoting better public health, managing patients with long-term conditions, treating minor ailments, and improving medicines management.

The pharmacy deal, which mirrors GPs' new contract, means PCTs would commission 'essential', 'advanced' and 'enhanced' services from pharmacy contractors from April 2005.

All pharmacists would be expected to participate in up to six health promotion campaigns per year at the request of PCTs, enabling them to advertise public health messages to the wider population as well as existing patients.

They would take over responsibility for repeat dispensing, with GPs writing forward prescriptions for up to a year and pharmacies liaising with patients on their behalf. They would also collect unwanted medicines from patients, for collection by PCTs, in an attempt to generate savings by cutting waste.

Accredited pharmacists with suitably adapted premises would offer reviews of medicine use for long-term patients in private consulting rooms, as an 'advanced' service. PCTs would also be free to commission equipped pharmacies to provide 'enhanced' services, such as anticoagulant monitoring, care home support, minor ailment services, needle exchange and smoking-cessation clinics.

Pharmacy contractors would receive just under£1.7bn for essential services, plus the equivalent of£23 per medicine review for advanced services. PCTs would commission enhanced services from general funding.

PCTs would have responsibility for ensuring that pharmacies comply with minimum service specifications. But although the contract would apply from April, there would be a transitional period of six months before monitoring begins.

Health minister Rosie Winterton told a conference last week that the contract 'will come to be recognised as a watershed', promising 'significant benefits for patients, and a secure and stable basis for pharmacists to make best use of their skills'.

'Patient expectations are rising and will continue to do so. NHS services in future must fit those expectations. We cannot achieve that if we perpetuate old-fashioned notions that professionals only do what they've always done, ' she told the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee conference in Manchester.

PSNC chair Barry Andrews urged pharmacists to vote yes in the contract ballot, which ends on November 22, so new regulations could be laid down before the government lost its impetus for reform in the run-up to the election.