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Wes Streeting says NHS to regain status as ‘envy of the world’

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It was a night filled with anticipation and excitement, and the atmosphere was electric with a sense of achievement and pride.

The 23rd annual Pharmacy Business Awards had the honour of hosting the distinguished Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Wes Streeting, who served as the event’s chief guest.

The event took place on 4 October at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, located on the South Bank of the River Thames, right across from the Houses of Parliament.

There was a gathering of 600 guests, impeccably attired by the dress code, which added to the festive atmosphere.

In his keynote speech, Labour MP Streeting said the NHS, which marked its 75th anniversary in July, could once again become the “envy of the world”.

He commended the community pharmacy for opening its “doors” to remain accessible to the public during the pandemic.

Streeting also expressed appreciation for the groundbreaking work of scientists in developing vaccines and applauded pharmacies for their pivotal role in administering nearly 33 million COVID-19 vaccinations.

‘NHS requires three key shifts’

It’s been a year since Streeting assumed office, during which he observed a significant transformation in the NHS and its services. He expressed profound admiration for the National Health Service’s long-term sustainability, spanning the next 75 years.

Streeting, however, emphasized three pivotal shifts for the NHS: a shift from secondary to primary care, from analogue to digital systems, and from sickness-oriented to prevention-focused healthcare.

After Wes Streeting concluded his speech, the audience erupted into applause and cheers, showing their enthusiastic support for his ambitious vision and plans for both the NHS and the pharmacy industry.

Addressing the audience, Shyaamal Solanki, son of Shailesh Solanki, made a heartfelt appeal for support for the Rare Dementia Support Charity.

Now, it was the turn to announce the awards; however, one could feel the tension and enthusiasm in the room.

Not everyone could win, though, and there were moments of heartbreak.

The former Pharmacy Business Editor’s Award – renamed since our 21st edition as the Pharmacy Business Ram Solanki Lifetime Achievement Award 2023 in honour of the founder of Asian Media Group and Pharmacy Business Ramniklal Solanki CBE – went to Mark Lyonette, Chief Executive of National Pharmacy Association (NPA).

He came into the pharmacy sector in June 2018 and utilized his long experience as a transformational leader to help steer the organization through a difficult period.

During COVID-19 and severe funding challenges, he remained a figure of reassurance, professionalism and grace under pressure.

Mark has been a passionate advocate for community pharmacy who championed the sector at the highest levels while also drawing on the extensive contacts he built within government.

He has undoubtedly strengthened the organization he was appointed to lead and improved its ability to represent member views – with clarity and purpose.

Patrick Gompel of D&M Gompels in Melksham, Wiltshire won the Pharmacy Business of the Year for running an outstanding family business as a pharmacist for three generations. Their pharmacy is truly at the cutting edge of modern community pharmacy.

Gompels Pharmacy is a ‘one-stop shop’ for all the healthcare needs of the local community where the patient is at the heart of everything the pharmacy offers.

It has a spacious retail offering with a designated care shop for mobility aids, a discreet incontinence section along an efficient, stress-free dispensary.

Moreover, the pharmacy also provides one of the widest ranges of NHS and private services in the country, offering everything from NMS, Flu vaccines and minor ailments to micro-suction, dermatology advice and travel clinics.

Their use of technology ensures the pharmacy’s operation is efficient and allows for digital bookings and seamless communication with local GP practices.

Upon receiving the awards, Gompels remarked, “I’d like to say that all of us at Gompels are absolutely honoured to have won the Pharmacy Business of the Year award last night. This truly would not have been possible without each and every one of our fantastic team members, across all four of our pharmacies who work relentlessly to support our patients.

“The teams share their workloads seamlessly daily (despite being hundreds of miles apart) and this helped D&M Gompels to achieve what it has. I’d also like to thank Nicholas Gompels, my Dad and Co-Owner of Gompels Limited, who has been pivotal in developing our vision for the future,” said Patrick Gompels.

Talking about the event, Shailesh Solanki, the Executive Editor of Pharmacy Business magazine, primarily discussed how community pharmacies serve as society’s “bedrock” and are the only “accessible” healthcare professionals in the community.
Despite being the “front desk” of the NHS, the sector is currently at a “generational inflection point.”

Mr Solanki expressed deep concerns for the industry, stating, “After years of chronic underinvestment, pharmacy finances are in a perilous state. The stark reality is that the majority of pharmacies are operating at a loss, and hundreds have closed in recent years.”

He emphasized that since the beginning of this year, “296 pharmacies have shut their doors,” and multiples like Lloyds “have nearly halved their store estate over the last two years, and Boots recently announced the closure of around 300 stores.”

Mr Solanki added, “Pharmacy finances are now at the worst point in the sector’s history. However, there is hope on the horizon.”

After the government’s announcement to invest £645 million in the long-awaited “Pharmacy First” service, Mr Solanki spoke with renewed hope, “The service is a welcome boost for the sector, allowing pharmacists to write prescriptions for seven common ailments for the first time, placing the sector at the heart of the NHS and the prevention agenda.

He said that the service is a “game-changer, but the negotiations between the Government and Community Pharmacy England have been painfully slow”.

“It remains to be seen how much of the funding will be left to support the bottom line of loss-making pharmacies, as part of it is allocated to other services and IT integration.”

Following the release of the Nuffield Trust and King’s Fund report, which presented a vision for community pharmacy, there is an opportunity for the sector to be reimagined in alignment with this vision.

Mr Solanki referred to this service as the “springboard” for the sector, poised to assume a “significant role” in primary care and eventually become an “integral part of the NHS.”

He further added, “Community pharmacy can help patients manage long-term conditions such as asthma, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

“Pharmacy can play an expanded role in the prevention agenda and tackle rising obesity and promote healthy living.

“It can play a vital role in the early detection of cancer, dementia and other life-changing illnesses.

“But this advanced role in clinical services can only be developed on the foundation of pharmacy’s vital role in the safe supply of medicines and its crucial contact with patients.”

‘PM job was Bangalored’

Joshua Bethania, a London-based comedian, tickled the crowd with his jesting commentary on the job market in Bangalore compared with the infamous UK PM Election last year.

The Indian-British comic underlined his point by joking about how Rishi Sunak was outsourced back when the UK economy failed to flourish under a white person’s leadership.

Bethania mockingly used the slang word, “Bangalored” to address the whole fiasco quoting it as “PM job was Bangalored”.

It is an indirect way to express that a worker has been laid off because their company moved its operations to India.

Moreover, he poked a jibe at the British colonial past by asking the crowd to apply for an Indian visa which is now valid for 90 days.

Bethania concluded his comedy act by sharing a travel tip, advising the audience to frequently check their visa notifications for renewal.

He humorously pointed out that the visa validity is “just for 90 days and not for 200 years like last time”.

‘Winners shine through the night’

The awards night was a truly enthralling occasion, as we felicitated and celebrated 18 awardees for their exceptional endeavours and hard work within the pharmacy industry.

The Pharmacy Business Development 2023 Award, introduced to honour and celebrate community pharmacists who have demonstrated remarkable innovation and entrepreneurial spirit in advancing their pharmacy practices, has been presented to Baljit Kaur, owner of Smarta Health.

“We extend our heartfelt thanks to every member of our team for their unwavering commitment to excellence. We also want to express our gratitude to our valued patients, whose trust and support motivate us to continuously strive for excellence in pharmacy services.

This award is a testament to our shared commitment to improving patient care. Thank you all for being a part of this remarkable journey,” said Baljit Kaur, Pharmacy Services Director, at Smarta Healthcare.

Another one, Aspiring Pharmacy Leader of the Year 2023, went to Davinder Virdee of the  Pillbox chemists from Colnbrook, Berkshire. His exceptional leadership and dedication set him apart from the competition, as he consistently demonstrated a deep commitment to patient care and innovative pharmacy practices, making him the clear choice for this prestigious honour.

A most eagerly anticipated award went to the Pharmacy Team of the Year 2023 Award was presented to Edwinstowe Pharmacy from Mansfield.

Kate Scothern, Pharmacist Manager of Edwinstowe Pharmacy said as she reflected on her contribution to the field, “I am so proud to accept this on behalf of my fabulous, hardworking team. It’s a great honour. We all put so much of ourselves into achieving the highest standards we aim for.”

The pharmaceutical and healthcare company, Sanofi received the award for the Pharmacy Branded Manufacturer of the Year 2023. They were the first worldwide supplier of the injectable polio vaccine followed by the first influenza, meningitis, and rabies vaccines, a little fact about the company.

Nemesh Patel of Davies Pharmacy in Havant has been awarded the esteemed title of Community Pharmacy of the Year.

Giving his reaction after winning the award, Nemesh Patel said he was “incredibly proud and most delighted to be the recipient of this prestigious UK Community Pharmacy of the Year Award”.

Winners in other categories are given below which include the most prominent part of the Pharmacy industry

Inspiring Woman of the Year: Sobha-Sharma Kandel

Enterprise Award: Deborah Evans, Remedi Health

Community Pharmacy Heroes: Natalie Carruthers, Seaton Burn Pharmacy

Public Health Pharmacist Award of the Year: Ayan Awale, Spiralstone Pharmacy

Independent Prescriber of the Year Award: Atul Patel, Lincoln Pharmacy

Pharmacy Assistant of the Year: Anne Edwards, Jephson Pharmacy

Business Sustainable Pharmacy of the Year: Prabjaudt Channa, Priory Pharmacy, Orpington

Pharmacy Technology Award: Lee Browne, Camella Healthcare, Rhyl

Local Health Initiative of the Year: PillBox Chemists

Generic Manufacturer of the Year: Teva

Innovation in Generics: Apixaban, Teva

OTC Brand of the Year: Buttercup by Perrigo Company

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