Churchill praises community pharmacy teams for their work throughout the pandemic

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) on Monday (July 5) launched an ambitious plan for England’s community pharmacies, aiming to help protect people from Covid-19 and improve their access to primary care.

The plan, called ‘How We Can Help’, is based on the principle that pharmacies are well placed for a central role in delivering Covid-19 booster vaccinations. The NPA hopes that this will allow general practitioners (GPs) to focus on clearing the care backlog in the NHS.

“Today we’re launching the National Pharmacy Association’s bold plan to unleash the potential of community pharmacy in England. Provided there’s sufficient ongoing support from government and NHS, pharmacies can help get the country through the pandemic, help the NHS catch up on lost ground and be a foundation stone for better care in the future,” NPA chair, Andrew Lane, said at the pharmacy body’s annual conference which was held virtually over four days.

Combining community pharmacy with the rest of social and health care will be pivotal to bring overall improvement, he said. “We aim to progress these ideas in an Integrated Care System with big ambitions to adopt a pharmacy first approach and release the potential of pharmacy teams in its area.”

Speaking at the conference, pharmacy minister Jo Churchill said she was “encouraged” by the plan and that she would want to see community pharmacy sitting “at the absolute the heart of primary care”.

The plan envisages pharmacy’s potential in preventing ill health, managing long-term conditions and providing members of the public with an easy access to care near their home, work and shop.

It also highlights pharmacists’ years of experience in delivering flu vaccines to patients.

Churchill assured the sector that the government was committed to community pharmacy, and that the recent changes at the Department of Health and Social Care would not alter that vision.

Sajid Javid MP replaced Matt Hancock as the new secretary of state for Health and Social Care last month.

Churchill said she felt Javid has similar commitment to community pharmacy as his predecessor Hancock who time and again declared that he’s a “huge fan” of community pharmacy.

“The new secretary of state and I have already had conversations about pharmacy and its value to the system, so I’m sure that commitment is there. As a government, we are committed to the idea of community pharmacy as the first port of call for minor illnesses and having a key role at the heart of primary care and prevention,” she told NPA members and community pharmacy stakeholders.

During her 30-minute address, the minister thanked pharmacies for going “above and beyond” during the pandemic. “You’ve made sure that vital medicines have got to those in need. You’ve been there for people you’ve worked incredibly hard to keep them safe.

“You also implemented the medicines delivery service and Pharmacy collect, and the lateral flow testing service, but services to support not only your communities stay safe, but to help us in government, tackle this pandemic.”

She added that she, Sajid Javid and his predecessor Matt Hancock were all grateful for the work of pharmacies in supplying vital medicines and keeping people safe.

“I believe you have an essential role as part of the NHS family and bring amazing value to local communities”, she said.

“I believe you have an essential role as part of the NHS family and bring amazing value to local communities”, she said, adding, “we need a network of financially stable community pharmacies” to achieve those ambitions.

She expected the number of pharmacist-led Covid vaccination sites to go up “by hundreds”.

“I am personally committed to doing all I can to support community pharmacy. I believe that you have an essential role as part of the NHS family that you bring amazing value to local communities,” the minister told the conference.

She added: “We are on a journey to transform the provision of health and care… That’s the spirit that runs through the health care bill.”

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