Health minister moots ‘more funding’ for pharmacy
The government’s plan to make further use of pharmacies to ease pressure on the NHS “will put more funding their way”, a health minister has said.
Lord Markham, a parliamentary under secretary of state for the Department of Heath and Social Care (DH), said that pharmacies “have been underutilised in the past” during a House of Lords debate on NHS winter pressures earlier this week (January 10).
The government’s “plan of using them more for patients will put more funding their way”, he argued.
He made the comments in response to a question from Lord Grade, who suggested that the government had little “understanding of the crisis that is going on in the independent pharmacy sector”, with many closing “at an alarming rate”.
But Lord Markham said he hoped a greater use of pharmacies would “support them, just as allocating COVID-19 vaccinations to many pharmacies provided support”.
“I hope my noble friend will see that this plan should add to the viability of a number of pharmacies by putting more business their way,” he added.
Lord Markham went on to praise the pharmacy sector, deeming it “a crucial part of the front line”.
It comes after health secretary Steve Barclay this week (January 9) set out his intentions for pharmacists to take on “many more things” in a bid to relieve pressure on GP services.
Minister’s statement “no surprise”
CEO of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) Janet Morrison said it was “no surprise to hear the government’s vote of confidence in pharmacy this week [as] pharmacies have proved time and again how much they can do to help patients and support the wider health service”.
“Lord Markham appears to promise additional funding linked to services and this is absolutely critical, along with other help,” Ms Morrison continued.
She said that pharmacies currently seeing an increasing number of patients has not resulted in “more money for pharmacies and that needs correcting urgently”.
PSNC has urged the government to first address “fundamental problems” plaguing the sector – including “workforce, capacity, and…inadequate core funding levels” – if it wants pharmacy “to do more”, Ms Morrison said.
“We’ve been saying this to officials, ministers, and even the Prime Minister this week, and we look forward to constructive formal negotiations as soon as they are ready,” she added.
Executive director of Day Lewis Jay Patel – along with “a small number" of PSNC members – championed community pharmacy in an emergency NHS recovery meeting hosted by Rishi Sunak last week (January 7).
Meanwhile, it was this week (January 10) revealed that sector representatives have addressed an open letter to health minister Will Quince calling for the NHS workforce plan to cover pharmacy in full, while a letter urging the health secretary to issue urgent funding to the sector remains unanswered.
Labour shadow health secretary Wes Streeting also recently said he believes pharmacies should be responsible for doing "a lot more vaccinations".