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A manifesto for community pharmacy

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Ahead of the General Election, Pharmacy Business spoke with Pharmacy leaders about their expectations from the next government for community pharmacy…

With the UK General Election set for 4 July, pharmacy bodies are actively engaging with all political parties to secure support for the community pharmacy sector. They are pressing parties to address urgent issues such as pharmacy closures and medicine shortages.

“The upcoming general election is a critical opportunity for us to strengthen supporters of community pharmacy in readiness for the new Parliament,” said Janet Morrison, chief executive of Community Pharmacy England (CPE).

She stressed the need for unity within the sector in advocating for community pharmacy and raising awareness of the issues with election candidates from all parties.

As the general election approaches, CPE has called upon all political parties to support pharmacies by “introducing a long-term sustainable funding model and reviewing the medicines supply chain, including much-needed short-term relief measures.”

Sharing their election wish list with Pharmacy Business, Janet highlighted: “Investing in the clinical future of community pharmacies and enhancing the Pharmacy First service should also be key priorities.”

“Additionally, the community pharmacy workforce needs to be better supported and sustained to ensure that pharmacists and their teams can continue to meet the needs of their patients now and in the future.”

These priorities are also covered in the CPE’s Four-Point Plan for Community Pharmacy and the joint #VotePharmacy Manifesto.”

The CPE has been encouraging local pharmaceutical committees (LPCs) and pharmacy owners to reach out to their local prospective candidates to advocate for the sector’s needs.

“We have been contacting a wide list of Prospective Parliamentary Candidates, working with LPCs to arrange pharmacy visits, and are ready to brief new MPs when they take office,” Janet stated.

Urgent action to address funding crisis

Meanwhile, Paul Rees, CEO of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), emphasised the desperate need for a New Deal for pharmacy, including a large injection of funding and an end to community pharmacists being treated as second-class citizens within the NHS.

“The funding crisis engulfing pharmacies across the country is at the top of our list for urgent action by the next government.

“It’s clear that years of cuts are taking their toll on pharmacies, which are closing at record rates, and this can’t be allowed to continue, whoever is in power,” he told Pharmacy Business.

He added that this necessitates “filling a £1.3bn a year hole and restoring community pharmacy to 2.5per cent of the NHS budget.”

The analysis of NHS data by the NPA revealed that 177 pharmacies closed their doors between January and April 2024, equivalent to an average of 10 closures per week. This marks an almost 50per cent increase in closures compared to the same period in 2023, when 116 pharmacies shut their doors.

The NPA has distributed a #SaveOurPharmacies campaign pack to its members to help them keep community pharmacy on the political radar in this general election period and beyond.

Expand Pharmacy First service

Dr. Nick Thayer, Head of Policy at the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), expressed hope that the next government would build on Pharmacy First and expand its reach, bringing further investment into community pharmacy and additional opportunities to free up GP capacity.

The CCA restated that with adequate investment and workforce planning, community pharmacy could release more than 42 million GP appointments annually.

He mentioned that while the service is already showing benefits, it requires additional support through public awareness campaigns and action to drive GP referrals.

“The election offers an opportunity to press the re-set button on the pharmacy contract, truly investing in the sector to repeat the true benefits the sector offers,” Dr. Nick remarked, adding that they are interested to see “what the party manifestos have in store for healthcare and community pharmacy specifically.”

According to Dr. Nick, the foremost priority for the incoming government should be to ensure that community pharmacy is given “fair funding for the work asked of it and that future funding grows with the demands placed upon it.”

“Without investment of this kind, we are concerned that further closures are inevitable and patient access to primary care will, unfortunately, be diminished,” he noted.

The CCA also highlighted the need for both short and long-term workforce solutions.

Dr. Nick explained: “In the short-term, we want to see the ARRS recruitment of further pharmacists halted. We also need to address the supply and availability of Designated Prescribing Practitioners (DPPs), which is a big concern too.

“In the longer-term, we need NHS England to outline how the pledges to increase training places, as made in the NHS Long-Term Workforce Plan, will actually be delivered. Critical to achieving this is generating a vibrant IP-trained workforce, enabled through NHS commissioned services.”

Furthermore, the association expects the new government to introduce promised changes, such as updates to supervision and PGDs, as soon as possible to benefit pharmacies and patients.

Transparency in Elections

Alongside pharmacy plans, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) urged political parties to prioritize transparency and facts during elections.

Jay Badenhorst, Director of Pharmacy at the PDA, said: “In recent years, elections around the world have sadly been tainted by misinformation. We would hope that we can see a swing back to more facts and transparency with a clearer choice between what parties would do if in power.”

There have been six health secretaries and five pharmacy ministers in Westminster since the last general election, Jay pointed out, emphasising that such constant change is “unhelpful.” He hopes that the next government will bring an end to the chaos of recent years.

Expressing his perspective on the current government’s stance regarding the sector, jay remarked:Although the ambition of the current government may appear to use the clinical skills of pharmacists in pharmacies more, the necessary funding has not followed to ensure the network is sustained in the traditional roles of pharmacists, as well as for the newly expanded roles in community pharmacy.”

Need measures to improve job satisfaction

In addition to stressing the need for adequate funding for community pharmacy, Jay emphasised the importance of addressing workforce shortages and improving job satisfaction in the pharmacy sector.

“The government needs to have a clear strategy for what pharmacy can do, not just a plan to add more people. It needs to develop a strategic workforce plan to address shortages and ensure an adequate supply of pharmacists across all regions.

“For example, we need to move towards 2+ pharmacists as being normal in a community pharmacy to deliver all services and we need adequate staffing in all settings. The government should do more to make the profession attractive to future pharmacists,” he noted.

Furthermore, he urged the next government to implement measures to “improve job satisfaction, reduce burnout and retain experienced pharmacists in the profession.”

“Issues waiting in the inbox for whoever becomes Health Secretary and Pharmacy Minister include ensuring skill mix does not become role substitution; supporting the profession to be adequately prepared and resourced to support the IP qualified new registrants when they start to arrive in two years’ time; addressing staffing levels and of course fair NHS Pay settlements,” he shared with Pharmacy Business.

Also, he stressed the urgent need to overhaul the current funding model for community pharmacy and protect pharmacists’ additional roles in primary care from bureaucratic mismanagement.

He added that sustainable long-term funding models and professional development opportunities, like funded training programs, are essential for supporting community pharmacies in delivering frontline healthcare services.

Jay underscored the need for collaboration within the sector to help new Ministers understand pharmacists’ capabilities and change their mindset to view community pharmacy as “clinical healthcare settings, rather than retail shops.”

However, he noted that this transition will require upfront investment to allow community pharmacies to transform their premises into modern healthcare settings, fit for modern pharmaceutical care and growing patient demand.

“Many of the challenges and opportunities in community pharmacy will be better understood and resolved once the government adopts tripartite arrangements engaging with the representatives of employed and self-employed pharmacists before making decisions, as well as talking with the representatives of business owners,” he suggested.

Pharmacist Support chief executive Danielle Hunt echoed the significance of addressing funding shortfalls to ease the pressures on the pharmacy sector and prevent burnout.

She said: “We are seeing increasing pressures on the pharmacy sector due to external factors such as lack of funding, which are putting additional strain on pharmacy teams who are at high risk of burnout. To reduce this risk and improve wellbeing across the sector, we hope that the incoming Government will address these critical issues.”

Joint manifesto from pharmacy bodies 

Pharmacy bodies, including CPE, CCA, RPS and NPA, have collaborated to educate and influence candidates in the run-up to the general election.

Their joint manifesto for community pharmacy, #VotePharmacy, spells out the many challenges requiring an urgent political response. Election candidates are urged to –

  • Fill the funding gap, and commit to long-term sustainable funding, so pharmacies can deliver more of the NHS care patients need.
  • Support and enhance the community pharmacy workforce to ensure that pharmacists and their teams can continue to meet the needs of patients now and in the future.
  • Ensure that patients can access the medicines they need, including an end-to-end review of the medicines supply chain.
  • Rollout an enhanced Pharmacy First service for England, mirroring the highly successful approaches taken in Scotland and Wales.
  • Empower community pharmacists to do more, with an ambitious roadmap for independent prescribing.
  • Make pharmacies centres for public health, prevention and reducing health inequalities.

Pharmacy Trends

Data from Real World Analytics (RWA) indicates a significant reduction in the total number of pharmacies across Great Britain, declining from 11,240 in January 2023 to 10,428 in May 2024, marking an 8 per cent decrease over 16 months.

A noteworthy decline was observed among large pharmacy contractors, as represented by the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA). In January 2023, there were 4,383 CCA pharmacies, constituting 39 per cent of the total pharmacies in Great Britain. However, by May 2024, this number had decreased to 3,183, representing 31per cent of the total, reflecting a substantial 38% decrease.

Independent pharmacies, characterized by one or two sites, also witnessed a decline of 16per cent during this period. In January 2023, there were 4,111 independent pharmacies, representing 37 per cent of the total. By May 2024, this number had decreased to 3,557, constituting 34 per cent of the total.

Conversely, Pharmacy Groups consisting of three or more branches experienced a 22% increase. The number rose from 2,677 in January 2023, representing 24% of the total  pharmacies, to 3,426 by May 2024, constituting 33 per cent of the total.

Additionally, the RWA data reflected a notable growth trend in online pharmacies, with an increase from 79 (1per cent of the total) in January 2023 to 262 (3per cent of the total) by May 2024.

 

To learn more about the latest trends in the sector, read the digital issue of PB magazine for June here: https://www.pharmacy.biz/digital/issue271/ 

 

 

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