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Sajid Javid lauds pharmacy’s ‘starring role’ in COVID-19 pandemic

The health secretary has praised community pharmacies for playing an “outstanding part” in helping to tackle the spread of COVID-19.

Addressing guests at the National Pharmacy Association’s (NPA) centenary dinner last night (November 24), Mr Javid pointed to the “starring role” the sector has played in the COVID-19 pandemic – including remaining open to the public, distributing lateral flow tests and taking part in the national vaccination programme.

There is “intense pressure” on pharmacies, he acknowledged, “but it’s the teams in pharmacies like yours that have given us the best chance of living with this virus, so I’m very grateful to you all”.


Pharmacy First model

The government hopes to implement a “Pharmacy First” model that would encourage patients with minor illnesses to visit their pharmacy, rather than seeing their GP, Mr Javid said.

“I want community pharmacies to be at the very heart of primary care, not just treating people, but preventing people from becoming patients in the first place,” he said.

The government is “transforming every aspect of health and care in this country”, Mr Javid added, “riding the greatest wave of innovation in the history of healthcare and embracing the spirit of integration that has seen us overcome traditional barriers”.

Part of this is “making the very best use of [pharmacists’] talents to provide care in a quicker and easier way”, he said, including building on services such as the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service and the Discharge Medicines Service.

“I want to see how much further we could go,” Mr Javid said – although he did not expand on what other services the sector should offer in the future.

“Pharmacies are about more than just medicines,” he continued. “You are the custodians of the nation’s health, and the friendly face of healthcare in our communities.”


Prince Charles: Pharmacy’s commitment to care has “never wavered”


In a video address to guests, Prince Charles extended his “warmest thanks” to pharmacy teams for their work during the pandemic.

“I know that this has been about the most challenging time possible for everyone working in the health service,” he said. “[But] your commitment to patient care has never wavered, despite the many enormous pressures you have faced.”

Pharmacy is “not just [about] pills”, he stressed. “They are part of the essential fabric of neighbourhoods and communities and as well as contributing to people’s health and wellbeing, they contribute to the economic health of our high streets, too.”


Independents can’t beat Amazon “on supply alone”


In his address to guests, NPA chair Andrew Lane warned that community pharmacy in England “cannot possibly sustain the service developments we could otherwise deliver”.

He asked: “How can it make sense that NHS investment in GP pharmacists and primary care network pharmacists has increased while investment in community pharmacy – a vital, patient facing clinical asset – has gone into reverse?”

Community pharmacy’s future must be about services, he advised guests, although these should be “married to medicines supply”.

“Good luck to anyone who thinks they can out-flank Amazon on supply alone,” he warned.

Mr Lane praised pharmacy teams for their efforts in the national vaccination programmes this year – including delivering more than 15 million COVID-19 jabs. The sector is now “on track” to administer four million flu jabs this season, he said.


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