Transforming the Specialist Pharmacy Service

Dr Justine Scanlan, Head, Specialist Pharmacy ServicePublished Last updated See all updates

Why SPS exists and how it's being transformed to better meet the needs of its users

Changes and background

From April 2022, the way the NHS Specialist Pharmacy Service (SPS) is structured and commissioned will change to provide greater stability to the service, its team members and customers.

SPS provides support and delivers direct benefits to patients and teams across the NHS, and SPS team members are highly valued by NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) and teams across the healthcare system. However, the experience of COVID-19 has highlighted that the service could be more efficiently delivered if fully and directly commissioned by NHSE&I.

SPS has played a critical and central role in the NHS’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and this has been recognised by NHSE&I and colleagues across the NHS. The SPS team has worked successfully to ensure continued medicines supply, the provision of medicines-related resources on a variety of topics, and direct support to the COVID-19 vaccination and treatments programmes by producing a suite of standard operating procedures and medicines governance documents. Its reach has expanded to all sectors of pharmacy practice which needs to be maintained.

Service delivery will in future be brought into a formal contract, and the new service specification for SPS will set out an integrated structure reporting to the Head of Service. This will provide greater strength to support delivery for customers, better coordination and direction of SPS resources, greater efficiency and resilience, and make the service more cost-effective. The availability of SPS resources across all geographies, regardless of local funding, will also be critical to supporting service delivery and ongoing NHS recovery.

Work started on a transformation programme three years ago and SPS has now secured committed funding from NHSE&I to deliver the service over the next three years from April 2022 to March 2025, giving the service a more secure future.

Transformation principles

The underlying principles for the transformation business case which secured this funding are to ensure that SPS:

  • Is configured in such a way that it meets the needs of NHSE&I as commissioner, customers and stakeholders and demonstrates value for money.
  • Can continue to adapt to new challenges as they arise, developing agility and flexibility to meet the needs of the changing NHS and the integrated care agenda.
  • Has a secure and sustainable future and has the opportunity to bid for additional funding to enable new workstreams.

Key changes

To ensure maximum benefit and support to patients, the NHS and commissioners, the key changes will include:

  • A new SPS staffing structure, with four heads of function reporting to the Head of Service.
  • A central allocation model for allocating work across the 4 functions, quality assurance, procurement, medicines information and medicines use and safety, according to priorities, facilitated by increased matrix working.
  • Host organisations consolidated to a manageable cohort of around 6 from the current level of 16.
  • A national head of medicines information who will coordinate workplans and allocate work to 3 or 4 fully funded SPS regional centres of medicines information.
  • Aligned work programmes for the national quality assurance and procurement teams, and a field force aligned to the 7 NHSE&I regions. The work will be done once and shared with all regions.

SPS has notified members of the SPS team and hosting organisations of the transformation proposals and will continue to work closely with them over the next 6 months to establish the new structure and service contracts, and put the new operating model in place from April 2022. For more information please contact:

SPS senior management team

Following the recent interview and selection process we have great pleasure in announcing the new SPS senior management team in the attachments below.  The structure and these appointments have been endorsed by the SPS Transformation Board.

Change history

  1. Update including new senior structure
  1. Published