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APPG calls for ‘urgent action to relieve pharmacy funding pressure’

The government must take “urgent action” to relieve funding pressure on community pharmacies, the all-party pharmacy group (APPG) has said.

A new report published by the APPG today (January 23) set out its “manifesto” for the “future of pharmacy”, following evidence given by frontline pharmacists, GPs, professional bodies, patients and healthcare experts.

It called for more funding and reform of the current funding model, as well as funded independent prescribing training for all and a properly funded pharmacy walk-in service.

“The government must take urgent action to relieve the funding pressures on the community pharmacy sector in the short term and review long-term funding model for pharmacy,” the report recommended.

 

Read more: Pharmacy will continue to face staff and inflation pressures in 2023, broker says

 

A “better use” of pharmacies can relieve pressure from GPs and other parts of the NHS but pharmacies “can only do so if given the right support and investment”, it said.

This would “deliver significant savings” for the NHS “in the long-term”, it added.

 

Funded independent prescribing training for all

 

The report also said that “more needs to be done to increase the perception” of pharmacists as a clinical practitioners, arguing that investment in independent prescribing training “is key to enabling a greater role of pharmacy”.

It recommended that the government “should build on current commitments to provide funded prescribing training to ensure all existing pharmacists can train as independent prescribers if they so choose”.

And it said that the NHS must set out a plan to commission “fully funded” services that “ensure these new skills are put to best use”.

 

Commit to an “appropriately funded” walk-in service

 

The report also recommended that the government must “harness the power of pharmacy” not only to help deal with the COVID-19 backlog, but also to face “growing” healthcare challenges.

It urged the government to “acknowledge the sector’s clinical expertise” and to “commit” to an “appropriately funded national pharmacy walk-in service for minor ailments”.

The government must “implement a fully funded English ‘Pharmacy First’ service immediately, mirroring approaches in Scotland and Wales”, it said.

Read more: PSNC kicks off ‘proper discussions’ on Pharmacy First with DH

 

The report also recommended the government should:

  • Work with NHS England to “actively consider commissioning additional community pharmacy services that recognise and make better use of pharmacists’ clinical skills”
  • Ensure that “current and newly commissioned services are funded appropriately to guarantee the sustainability of pharmacies”
  • Ensure regional commissioning of clinical services “retains some degree of standardisation”, avoiding “postcode lotteries”
  • Work with the community pharmacy sector to “develop a longer-term vision” for it, as has been the approach in Scotland and Wales
  • “Urgently re-evaluate” the sector’s “current and long-term workforce needs”
  • Place community pharmacy “at the heart of decision-making and policy development”, including consulting them over integrated care board plans

Community pharmacy is an “invaluable network that can be relied upon to manage growing healthcare challenges, medicines management, early disease diagnosis and prevention, tackling health inequalities and management of long-term conditions”, the report concluded.

 

“Tremendous opportunity”

 

Recently appointed APPG chair Taiwo Owatemi said there is a “tremendous opportunity” for the government to “empower local pharmacies to help even more patients and use their skills to support efforts to clear NHS backlogs”.

 

“But right now, pharmacies are being squeezed by a combination of funding and workforce pressures,” she added.

 

Read more: Government failing pharmacy as it grows ‘weaker and weaker’, APPG chair warns

Ms Owatemi continued: “People are often shocked to learn how many local pharmacies are lost each year due to financial pressure.

“If ever there was a time to properly fund and support our pharmacies, it is now.”

It comes as community pharmacy bodies last week joined forces to “step up” their joint efforts to fight for more funding as the threat of closures looms over the sector.

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