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Sigma 2024 Conference: Rishi Sunak sends best wishes to all the participants

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The 14th Annual Community Pharmacy Conference by Sigma Pharmaceuticals began on Monday, 25 February at Sun City, South Africa.

Dr. Bharat Shah, Manish Shah, and Kamal Shah, co-founders of the company, extended a warm welcome to the delegates in attendance at the event.

In a written message, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak extended his best wishes to all the participants attending the conference.

The message read: “This conference is timely as it coincides with the launch of the Pharmacy First, a new initiative launched across England that will enable patients to receive treatments for seven common conditions directly from a pharmacist without the need for a GP appointment or prescription.”

“We are all grateful for the tremendous contributions that pharmacists make to our NHS. The fantastic work you do is critical to the success of Pharmacy First and many other initiatives.”

The Sigma conference this year is unique due to its diverse attendees, including doctors, dentists, pharmacists, opticians, and others, all embracing a holistic approach.

In a recorded message, Lord Dolar Popat of Harrow also praised pharmacists for their pivotal role in both the community and the country, and said that Pharmacy First will help free up 10 million GP appointments.

Steve Brine, Chair of the Health & Social Care Select Committee, emphasised in a recorded video the crucial role that pharmacies play in ensuring the delivery of high-quality healthcare.

He said: “Health and care do not work without pharmacies, primary care is not complete without pharmacies, secondary care is often blocked without hospital pharmacies and social care is significantly harder without pharmacies.”

Brine said that the Health Select Committee is midway in gathering all evidence in its pharmacy inquiry, which particularly focuses on community pharmacies.

About funding challenges, he said that the inquiry has received evidence that suggests that community pharmacy funding has fallen by 30 per cent in real terms.

He also agreed that the contractual framework is “too complicated and needs urgent review.”

Furthermore, Brine said that the Committee is aware of the impact of medicine shortages on the sector, noting that 92 per cent of pharmacies are dealing with medicine supply issues daily.

“It is key to address the medicine supply challenges to see the true benefits of pharmacy first,” Brine said, adding that this is a focus area of the pharmacy inquiry and the committee will be making recommendations to the government in this regard.

The presenters for the first day of the event were Janet Morrison, CEO, Community Pharmacy England (CPE); Dr Leyla Hannbeck, CEO of Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp); Martin Sawer, Executive Director, HDA UK; Peter Ballard, former chairman of British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA) and Carol Alexandre, vice president, Global Accounts & Clinical Trial Supplies at IQVIA.

Organised under the theme “community pharmacy in an integrated NHS”, the three-day conference will continue till 29 February.

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