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Pharmacy and NHS must ‘patch up differences’ to ‘refresh relationship’

NHS England and community pharmacy need to “patch up their differences” and “begin their relationship anew” to secure the sector's future, AIMp chief Dr Leyla Hannbeck has said.

Community pharmacies “see themselves as under-valued and unloved” despite “having more than proved their worth” during the pandemic, Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) chief executive officer Dr Hannbeck said.

To redress this, there needs to be “a redrawn contract, a new financial framework – one that we can work with, without having to complain and fight for, and one, equally, that all the NHS is happy to apply”, she stressed.

AIMp pointed to the £370 million of loans from the government for pandemic-related costs, debt which the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) is fighting to be cancelled.

Dr Hannbeck also urged “greater clarity and consistency” in patient referrals from NHS and GPs, and called for pharmacists to be “fully consulted” on the rollout of new medicines and therapies to utilise their “know-how”. She told C+D that “we would like our members, as innovative and experienced practitioners, to be part of that dialogue”.

“What we are seeking is recognition by the NHS that community pharmacies have a vital and expanding role to play and that we should be viewed as a solution to many of the current healthcare challenges.”

In return, pharmacies could do more, she admitted. “Some pharmacies do need to take a long and hard look at themselves, their offering and appearance,” Dr Hannbeck said. “This should be done in conjunction with a new deal, a new relationship with community pharmacy.”

“We need to use the pandemic and the review of healthcare that is now underway, as an opportunity to repair relations, to place community pharmacies at the forefront of our health system,” Dr Hannbeck stressed.

Breaking down NHS “snobbery”

Speaking to the Mail on Sunday yesterday (February 28), Dr Hannbeck warned that community pharmacy faces “yet another crisis in healthcare, as more and more pharmacies close for good”.

Snobbery within the NHS meant pharmacists were “perceived incorrectly as businesspeople first and healthcare providers second”, Dr Hannbeck claimed. Pharmacists could be doing more in the government’s COVID-19 vaccination effort, she added.

Dr Hannbeck’s comments reflect earlier remarks by Simon Dukes, chief executive of the PSNC, who previously told C+D he felt “desperately sad” that pharmacy was “not viewed as a sector in the same way by the NHS, as part of that NHS family.”

In January, Mr Dukes cautioned that further pharmacy closures would be “inevitable” if funding for the sector is not addressed by the end of the five-year contract, after revealing that more than 200 pharmacies had closed their doors as of October 2020.

If more pharmacies were to close, Dr Hannbeck told the Mail on Sunday: “Who would be there to help people live independently and in their own homes for longer? Who would we go to with all manner of minor ailments and conditions without the need for an appointment? Not the overstretched GPs and certainly not the hospitals.”

Do you think community pharmacy and NHS England need a "new relationship"?

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