The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Pharmacy published a new report on Monday (January 23) that calls for “urgent action” to relieve funding pressure so there are “opportunities” for community pharmacy teams to deliver even more for their patients.
The report highlights the need for a new “strategic vision” for pharmacy and highlights opportunities for the network to be empowered to deliver even more for patients.
However, the manifesto also underlines that there are the very real risks that this opportunity may be lost if significant and ongoing pressures are not addressed.
The recommendations are based on written and oral evidence gathered from frontline pharmacists, GPs, professional bodies and healthcare experts.
To harness the potential of pharmacy, the report recommends the Government must take urgent action to relieve the funding pressures on the community pharmacy sector in the short term and review the long-term funding model for pharmacy.
It also suggested the Government must harness the power of pharmacy to help the NHS deal with the COVID-19 backlog and the UK’s growing healthcare challenges.
It further recommended that future commissioning and funding must recognise that community pharmacy is the front door to the NHS for many patients.
The report said: “The DHSC and NHS England must urgently re-evaluate the current and long-term workforce needs of the entire health and social care system, including pharmacy.”
“The Government should build on current commitments to provide funded independent prescriber training to ensure all existing pharmacists can train as independent prescribers if they so choose. For this ambitious new vision to be realised, community pharmacy must be placed at the heart of decision-making and policy development.”
Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pharmacy, Taiwo Owatemi MP, said: “There is a tremendous opportunity for ministers to empower local pharmacies and pharmacy teams to help even more patients and use their skills to support efforts to clear NHS backlogs. But right now pharmacies are being squeezed by a combination of funding and workforce pressures.
“People are often shocked to learn how many local pharmacies are lost each year due to financial pressure. If ever there was a time to properly fund and support our pharmacies it is now.”
Commenting on the report, chair of RPS in England Thorrun Govind said: “This report rightly highlights the need to support a more ambitious approach to advancing the clinical role of pharmacists across the NHS to enhance patient care, including through the growing number of pharmacist independent prescribers.
“Pharmacists and pharmacy teams will play a crucial role in supporting the NHS recovery, reducing health inequalities, managing the growing cost of long-term conditions, and delivering best value from medicines.
“With continued pressure on the health service, it is vital that the pharmacy workforce is supported to keep looking after patients.”
NPA chief executive Mark Lyonette said: “This all-party report signals strong support in parliament for pharmacies. A growing number of MPs and peers understand that decent funding is vital to sustain the community pharmacy network and enable an expanded role within the NHS. The solutions the sector is offering to help the NHS get back on its feet cannot come for free, as this cross-party report explicitly recognises.
“The group is also right to pick out workforce planning as key to progress. When community pharmacy becomes a first-thought not an after-thought of workforce planners, NHS capacity will have more hope of keeping up with the ever-increasing demands of our aging population.
NPA board member Olivier Picard said: “I’m glad to be in parliament today to talk to MPs and peers about the future of pharmacy. As pharmacists, we always take a can-do attitude into such meetings, but we also need to be real about the degree of peril many pharmacies are in.
“I am very clear with MPs that funding decisions taken by government in the next months and years can either transform the NHS for the better or put a deep hole in the health service frontline. The government and NHS England need to be thinking in terms of emergency funding as well as a sustainable settlement for the longer term.”
Zoe Long, PSNC Director of Communications and Public Affairs, said: “This report sets out some useful recommendations which we endorse, particularly the call for funding and other support for community pharmacies. We hope Government will take note of what this cross-party group of MPs is telling it and act accordingly, and we will keep working with advocates across Westminster to try to make this happen. Urgent action to relieve the critical funding and other pressures on pharmacies is needed and this is what PSNC is continuing to fight for every day through our Parliamentary, media and wider strategic influencing work.”