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Numark Chairman on Labour’s Pharmacist Prescribing Service: Concept needs exploration


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“By harnessing pharmacist expanded prescribing rights, Labour is acknowledging our significant role in patient care” – Harry McQuillan  

Healthcare reform emerged as a cornerstone of the Labour Party’s manifesto leading up to the recent general election. A standout pledge was the establishment of a Community Pharmacist Prescribing Service, aimed at granting pharmacists independent prescribing rights where clinically suitable. This initiative is seen as a positive step in addressing critical challenges within the National Health Service (NHS).

Numark Chairman Harry McQuillan praised Labour’s recognition of pharmacists’ role in patient care through expanded prescribing rights.

“Let’s be honest, pharmacists are an underutilised resource within the healthcare system. We possess extensive training and expertise, yet our full potential hasn’t always been acknowledged.

“By harnessing pharmacists expanded prescribing rights, Labour is acknowledging our significant role in patient care. This initiative aims to recognise our skills and enhance patient care, ensuring quicker access to necessary treatments,” he said.

However, he pointed out that the concept requires further exploration, as the rights to prescribe are already granted through the recent change to undergraduate training that incorporates prescribing.

He emphasised the necessity of a “fully costed service that allows the pharmacy profession to deploy those skills easily and safely.”

“What the vision undeniably does is signal a strong commitment to fully utilise our capabilities and integrating community pharmacy more deeply into the healthcare system,” McQuillan stated.

Pharmacies are not just an ancillary service

Regarding Pharmacy First, McQuillan criticised the current narrative that views it solely as a tool to reduce GP workload.

“As a healthcare professional deeply invested in the evolution of pharmacy services, I find the current narrative surrounding initiatives like Pharmacy First to be somewhat frustrating and limiting.”

He argued that framing these services solely as a solution to reduce GP workloads undermines the broader role that community pharmacies play.

McQuillan emphasised the need to challenge this “narrow perspective” and advocated for a “more comprehensive vision focused on patient access and outcomes.”

“At the heart of our mission should always be the provision of the most appropriate professional care, tailored to the best interests of our patients,” he said.

McQuillan stressed the importance of shifting this perspective, urging policymakers to recognise that “pharmacies are not just an ancillary service.”

“Instead, pharmacies are integral to the healthcare system, providing essential services that complement those offered by GPs and hospitals,” he noted.

McQuillan underscored pharmacies as integral to delivering holistic healthcare, advocating for their recognition as the “third pillar” of healthcare alongside primary and secondary care.

McQuillan urged policymakers to reframe their approach, expressing concern that viewing expanded Independent Prescribing (IP) roles and services like Pharmacy First primarily as tools for reducing GP workload could lead to policies that underfund or underutilise pharmacies.

He emphasised the importance of integrating pharmacies fully into the healthcare system, expanding their service range, and ensuring adequate resources and remuneration.

McQuillan urged the Labour government to recognise this need and expressed his commitment to actively pursue opportunities to engage with policymakers to leverage the network’s position.

New government offers unique sector opportunity

Looking ahead, McQuillan expressed optimism about the opportunities under the new Westminster government, particularly for community pharmacy.

“Labour’s manifesto pledge to recognise the role of community pharmacies is a positive step that addresses several critical challenges facing the NHS today.

“By integrating pharmacists with prescribing rights into a prevention-focused healthcare model, and leveraging digital tools, Labour promises a more efficient, equitable, and responsive healthcare system.

“This commitment to community pharmacies not only strengthens the overall healthcare infrastructure but also ensures that patients receive high-quality care at the most appropriate points of service.”

McQuillan strongly believes that the new Westminster government presents a significant opportunity to change the narrative, particularly in England, around pharmacy services.

“This shift in perspective is not just beneficial for pharmacy teams, but most importantly, for the patients they serve,” he said, urging everyone to embrace this change and work towards a healthcare system that is “more holistic, integrated, and effective.”

As Chairman of Numark, McQuillan pledges to continue advocating for the support, recognition and importantly remuneration community pharmacy needs and deserves.

“Whilst I am cautiously optimistic; let’s hope Labour is ready, willing, and fully prepared to engage.  I certainly am,” he concluded






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