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Steve Barclay to work with community pharmacists to ‘tackle barriers’ to offering more services

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The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Steve Barclay has expressed his interest to work with ‘community pharmacists in tackling barriers to offer more services’ from the sector.

Community pharmacists can support with many more things to ease pressure on general practice, Barclay told parliament while he was updating on ‘what the government is doing to help the NHS deal with immediate winter pressures on Monday (9 January).

He further updated that from the end of March community pharmacies will take referrals from ‘Urgent and Emergency Care’ settings.

He added: “Later this year we will also start offering oral contraceptive services, including how we better use digital services.”

The service was originally planned to commence on 11th January 2023 and was delayed to ‘early 2023’.

“The primary care recovery plan will set out a range of additional services pharmacists can deliver,” Barclay said.

Responding to his statement, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) commented: “We were pleased to hear the Secretary of State talking so positively and hope he is convinced of the case for investment in community pharmacies so that they can do more to help the NHS and the public it serves at this very difficult time.”

It added: “PSNC has aways believed that with greater integration, capacity and sustainable funding, community pharmacy can be a key part of the solution for big NHS challenges such as GP access.”

“It was good to hear the Secretary of State recognising that along with all the wider value that pharmacies deliver.”

The committee has been discussing a fully funded Pharmacy First scheme with the Government for many months – “putting a business case forward for this in our CPCF negotiations last Spring. We remain ready to start negotiations on this as soon as they want to.”

“As we said in our recent letter to the Secretary of State, the Government is now at a fork in the road – it must decide whether it wants that sustainable, fully resourced community pharmacy sector which could continue to deliver huge value to patients while also doing more to ease wider NHS pressures; or does it want to continue to degrade our sector and the services that so many people rely on. We very much hope the Secretary of State agrees it must be the former, and that Government is ready to back this with appropriate funding.”

On Saturday (7 January), the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) board director and member and also the executive director of Day Lewis, Jay Patel highlighted the key issues and on ground challenges faced by the community pharmacy at the ‘pan- healthcare roundtable’ discussions hosted by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the health secretary in Downing Street.

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive AIMp said: “We welcome the announcement by Secretary of State for health and social care Steve Barclays on 9 January eluding to government’s desire to progress a Pharmacy First scheme for England.”

“Pharmacy First scheme has historically presented a challenge for negotiators to land in recent years. It is clear barriers have existed to the notion of efficacious products being available readily through the pharmacy network – we hope that this is now fast tracked underpinned by a willingness to happen in the light of huge capacity challenges facing the NHS.”

The association hopes that Pharmacy First becomes the catalyst to future pathways delivered by community pharmacy in order to improve patients access to care – for example a vaccination first scheme as part of the prevention agenda, and integration to management of long term conditions.

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