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Community pharmacist makes ‘case’ for sector in emergency meeting with PM

A community pharmacy representative has attended an emergency NHS recovery meeting with the Prime Minister, “making the case” for the sector.

Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies (AIMp) board director and member Jay Patel – also an executive director of Day Lewis – attended the meeting hosted by Rishi Sunak and health secretary Steve Barclay in Downing Street on Saturday (January 7), he confirmed to C+D today.

Announcing the meeting on Saturday, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) said that it would bring together “clinical leaders, health experts and ministers” to “identify opportunities to go further and faster on improving [NHS] performance and outcomes”.

The “NHS recovery forum” covered “four crucial issues” including primary care, as well as social care and delayed discharge, urgent and emergency care, and elective care, it added.

Read more: Taking the pressure off: What do pharmacists want their future to look like?

Mr Patel made the case for community pharmacy being well placed to alleviate pressure from the NHS, while emphasising that the sector faces pressures regarding funding and workforce, he told C+D.

Speaking to the BBC afterwards, Mr Patel described the forum as “collaborative [and] very proactive”, with people “genuinely asked for their opinions and listened to”.

“The Prime Minister is taking all the steps he can to try and understand exactly what the core issues are on the ground,” Mr Patel added.


Main points raised


Speaking to the BBC about key points raised in the forum, Mr Patel said pharmacy had the ability to ease pressure on the NHS as “we have the trust of our patients, we have the access, and we have a highly skilled workforce both clinically and professionally”.

Read more: ‘Critical situation’: PSNC moots reduced opening hours amid NHS strike chaos

“One of the opportunities we have is really working around acute treatment,” he added, citing the sector’s calls for the DH to establish a funded Pharmacy First Scheme.

During the forum, Mr Patel also called for pharmacies to have “more control over repeat prescriptions for stable patients to free up GPs for critical care”, he told C+D.

He additionally raised the challenges currently faced by the sector, including “massive demand” due to poor access into the health service and real term funding cuts leaving many pharmacies “in a cashflow crisis”, he told C+D.

“Urgent investment is now needed to help the sector to rebuild capacity and sustainability,” he stated.

Mr Patel told the BBC that “culturally, community pharmacy is not always seen as a solution and that is massive barrier”.

Read more: Why does striking seem to be the hardest word for community pharmacy?


Action “long overdue”

AIMp CEO Leyla Hannbeck said Mr Patel also raised the opportunity for community pharmacy “to assist the prevention agenda” such as screening, as well as the establishment of a “national vaccination programme” making pharmacy the “go-to place” for public health vaccinations.

She told C+D: “Jay articulated our key messages on behalf of the sector clearly and concisely within an environment where much was expected of him.

“We now hope that decision makers take forward this package of measures, which are frankly long overdue.”


PSNC members at forum 


Mr Patel is also a Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PNSC) member, the negotiator told C+D.  

PSNC CEO Janet Morrison said Mr Patel was accompanied at the forum by “a small number" of pharmacy contractor PSNC members and members of the King's Fund, who lead PSNC's vision and strategy work.  

"We were pleased to hear that community pharmacy was seen as integral to those discussions and that the forum heard about both the ambitions and the concerns of the sector," Ms Morrison said. 

"We hope the Prime Minister was convinced of the huge mistake it would be not to invest in community pharmacies at this critical time for the NHS and the public it serves," she added. 


AIMp: “Constructive discussion” with health minister


The emergency forum comes shortly after Dr Hannbeck had a “one-to-one meeting” with health minister Will Quince last week (January 6).

Read more: Not fair: Public backs calls for increased pharmacy funding as pressures intensify

Mr Quince “reached out…personally” to Dr Hannbeck “to discuss the challenges and solutions of the current supply chain issues affecting our sector”, she revealed in a LinkedIn post.

The pair had “a very constructive discussion” about the consequences “escalating problems around medicines supply and their cost” would have on both pharmacies about patients, she said.

Dr Hannbeck called for the DH to hold “roundtable meetings involving manufacturers, wholesalers and pharmacies to discuss how we can introduce reforms to the current system”.

“The Minister was receptive to my suggestions and thanked me for bringing the issues to his attention,” she shared, adding that he had “pledged to take [her] suggestions forward and continue further discussions”.


No response to emergency funding plea


However, it comes as the health secretary is yet to respond to an emergency letter sent to him by sector leaders last month (December 16).

The letter, penned by representatives from pharmacy bodies and multiples, warned that pharmacies are making losses and “struggling to survive” and called on Steve Barclay to make an “urgent investment” in the pharmacy sector.

But the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee today confirmed to C+D that Mr Barclay had yet to respond to the letter.

Meanwhile, chair of the all-party pharmacy group Taiwo Owatemi last week (January 4) tweeted that she shared the “serious concerns” raised by pharmacy bodies in the letter, pledging to continue campaigning with representatives “for the recognition and funding that pharmacy deserves”.

Read more: Pharmacy leaders issue urgent funding plea as pharmacies 'struggling to survive'


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