Published: 10/03/2005, Volume II5, No. 5946 Page 21

Sue Knox, NHS information director, Health Direction

The pharmaceutical industry has, until recently, tended to treat the organisation as a single purchaser.

However, pharmaceutical companies that wish to work in partnership with the NHS are having to become more sophisticated in the way they engage with it. Community pharmacists are one group of health professionals set to become more influential in planning and delivering services through implementation of the new pharmacy contract.

The contract will remunerate community pharmacists for delivering services that will help primary care trusts achieve NHS plan objectives around patient choice, public health and chronic-disease management.

And it will allow primar care trusts to develop community pharmacy services that can support GP practices in fulfilling the new general medical services contract.

Under the new contract, rewards will be provided for a variety of services provided by highly skilled pharmacists and pharmacy staff from accredited premises. This should provide a much better fit with the PCT role.

Pharmaceutical companies should treat community pharmacists as key stakeholders in their business planning. Communicating accurately to them - and treating them as sophisticated influencers - will lead to new NHS networks to work with.

There are several areas related to the new pharmacy contract where the pharmaceutical industry may begin to engage with community pharmacists. For example:

. Clinical governance is an essential requirement for the new contract and there will be opportunities to help community pharmacists achieve this.

. Pharmacists will be rewarded through advanced and enhanced services for offering services such as smoking-cessation programmes, diabetes screening, palliative care or healthy living programmes. In order to provide such services, pharmacists will require adequate training.

. Assistance in new service development, such as a minor ailments schemes and mediation review by sharing knowledge of successful schemes in other parts of the country.

With the right approach and the right market intelligence, there is a clear opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to grow their revenues by providing support to community pharmacists to deliver these 'addedvalue' products and services.