When it comes to funding, can we take Steve Brine at his word?
C+D's editor explains why we must hold the minister to his "fair" funding pledge
After a summer of suspense, we finally get our first words from the pharmacy minister about the longer-term funding for community pharmacies in England.
It’s understandable that Mr Brine has remained silent towards the sector in the months following his appointment. The role of pharmacy minister has been passed between politicians – both out of choice and necessity – like the political hot potato it is probably viewed as in Westminster.
After a bitter High Court fight that left all sides unsatisfied, it is reassuring to see the minister echo my call for a “fair, realistic and sustainable” funding settlement for 2018-19 “and beyond”.
But we cannot allow these words to become empty platitudes.
Pharmacists, their representatives, the media and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee must keep these in the forefront of the government’s mind, as it approaches the next round of funding negotiations.
In this context, “sustainable” should be defined as providing enough funding for every pharmacy in the country to continue to serve its own community. It must mean discarding the discredited belief that pharmacies are – in the words of Philip Hammond – “over-subsidised”, or that pharmacy teams can be replaced by impersonal automated dispensing hubs.
So what next?
The first step for any new minister is engagement. The early signs of this are encouraging, going by Mr Brine’s lengthy response to C+D’s letter, his appearance at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society conference on Monday – an opportunity missed by previous pharmacy minister David Mowat last year – and an upcoming meeting with the National Pharmacy Association, where C+D’s recent crime findings are due to be discussed.
However, engaging with the sector is most beneficial at the local level. I would therefore encourage pharmacists – especially those in Mr Brine’s constituency of Winchester and Chandler’s Ford – to invite the minister to visit them, so he can experience first-hand the incredible work you and your teams do for your patients each day.
Together, we can ensure that the promise of “fair and sustainable” funding finally becomes a reality.