Pharmacy bodies have urged the Health Select Committee to hold the government to account on pharmacy funding and workforce challenges.
In a show of unity, leaders from the sector came together to write a joint letter to the chair of the committee and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt and bring to his attention how financial pressures worsened by nearly a decade of a real-term decrease in funding have made the sector virtually untenable.
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC)’s recently published ‘Pharmacy Pressures Survey’ confirms how this has had an impact on pharmacy contractors, their teams as well as patients.
The survey found that 91 per cent of pharmacies are experiencing staff shortages. At the same time, demand for community pharmacists has risen – nine in ten pharmacy teams reported a significant increase in phone calls from patients about prescriptions, and 86 per cent reported a rise in requests for healthcare advice.
The letter to Jeremy Hunt is signed on behalf of the four chief executives of the PSNC, the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA).
Dr Leyla Hannbeck, AIMp chief executive, said: “Over the past few years pharmacy teams have demonstrated very clearly their rightful place as the front door to the NHS. Their enthusiasm and hard work have been praised by the public and the politicians alike. We are willing and ready to step up and further be a solution to the current challenges within the NHS. But our sector is exhausted and starved of funding since many years. It needs prompt support and investment. The positive words need to turn into action.”
Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the CCA, said: “Businesses of all sizes are struggling after funding cuts, which date from 2016, and worsening workforce challenges and it’s imperative policymakers recognize and take action accordingly. Pharmacies want to play their part in alleviating the NHS backlog but are hamstrung by the current arrangements. The sector needs a funding settlement that truly reflects the value it provides to patients, the public and the NHS.”
Mark Lyonette, chief executive of NPA said: “Community pharmacy is a can-do sector that wants to deliver even more for patients and the NHS, but we need enough people to power this forward-looking agenda. Right now there is a shortage of pharmacists, other key staff and funds to invest in training. We want to work with government and the NHS on solutions, and a realistic level of overall funding has to be part of that.”
Janet Morrison OBE, chief executive, PSNC, said: “Community pharmacies are facing an unrelenting combination of financial and operational pressures, with workforce challenges high on the list of many contractors’ urgent problems. As we have stressed to MPs, the sector needs urgent investment and support to address these challenges, and to avoid patient services being detrimentally impacted.
“The last few years have shown just how important pharmacies are to the public and government must work with us to address workforce and other challenges so that we can avoid these critical healthcare locations being forced to close, whether temporarily or permanently.”