Jackie Doyle-Price MP

The new chair of the All-Party Pharmacy Group (APPG) has said that pharmacy teams need more support from Government to be able to play their part “in keeping our nation healthy”.

Jacqueline Doyle-Price, who is the Conservative MP for Thurrock and a former health minister, made the comment in The Telegraph on Tuesday (Aug 11), highlighting the “incredible” response to Covid-19 from pharmacies.

“We need to do our part to support pharmacies and make sure they have the resources and stability to deliver their role as part of our NHS,” she wrote.

Doyle-Price praised the sector for having maintained services despite long-standing workforce challenges and the additional pressures of a pandemic.

“Despite very real efforts,” she wrote, “some community pharmacy chains are operating with up to 50 per cent fewer staff as a result of Covid-19.”

“While the issue of pharmacy closures predates the pandemic, the pressures of the pandemic have certainly made things worse and there are growing concerns that pharmacies forced to close as a result of the pandemic may not open again.”

Calling for a wider discussion on “system changes” which will help the long-term sustainability of community pharmacy,” she wrote that there was a strong need to make the profession “an attractive career”.

She added that there was also a need “to exploit new technologies” because routine tasks cannot be delivered in the same way as they were in the past.

“We will need to rethink how pharmacies can safely provide face-to-face services like flu jabs and consultations in a post-Covid environment,” she wrote.

Expanding on what the government needed to do to help ensure pharmacies had the resources and stability to deliver their role in the NHS, Doyle-Price made three suggestions:

“First, we need to work with the pharmacy sector to build on the changes that Covid-19 has brought and enable new ways of working virtually or via the telephone alongside existing face-to-face services. For example, a community pharmacist currently has to see a patient face-to-face to review their medicines, which could be done over the phone.

“Second, we need to invest in new innovative, patient-based models of care that can help release the potential of pharmacy to help reduce the health inequalities gap, ensuring that patients across the country have timely access to vital medicines and services.

“Third, pharmacy teams must have clarity and certainty about their future. This means a fair and sustainable funding framework that reflects the importance of pharmacies to the resilience of the health service overall, which has been amply demonstrated by their fantastic work during the pandemic. Pharmacies are shouldering the burden of increased drug and operational costs with no agreed increase in funding. The NHS must address this.”

Jackie Doyle-Price MP was elected chair of the All-Party Pharmacy Group on July 14.

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