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Will additional funding for pharmacies prove to be a prescription for success?

A £645 million cash injection for England's community pharmacies is a welcome step but may fall short of being a cure-all for the sector’s many problems, warns Beth Kennedy

If you’ve been left reeling from yesterday’s news that the government has finally stumped up additional funding for community pharmacies, then you’re not the only one.

Months, if not years, of pleas for the government to invest more money into pharmacy had until then fallen on deaf ears, rejected due to the constraints of a five-year deal that was agreed well before a global pandemic and rampant inflation took its toll on the sector. So imagine my surprise to hear that an impressive £645m cash injection is on its way.

Read more: Government injects £645m investment into community pharmacy

An upcoming Pharmacy First service covering the whole of England, the existing pharmacy contraceptive and the hypertension case-finding services are set to benefit from the funding pot, although it is as yet unclear how the money will be divided between the services.

First things first, I think it’s time to celebrate. The announcement marks the culmination of months of hard work by pharmacy organisations in lobbying for better funding, and it’s wonderful to see such a sizeable investment being made.

Read more: ‘Devil in the detail’: Sector cautiously welcomes plan to expand services

While I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth, I must admit that the lack of detail in the proposals leaves me feeling slightly wary. The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and the government are now entering into “detailed negotiations” about how the money will be spent, and I’m firmly with pharmacy bodies in reserving my judgement until those are complete.

While additional funding for clinical services is more than welcome, it does not do enough to address other fundamental issues affecting the community pharmacy sector – such as workforce retention and a broken medicines reimbursement system that is leaving thousands of contractors dispensing at a loss.

Read more: Why a chat with the PM has given me hope for community pharmacy's future

These are certainly problems that require their own attention, and I hope that Rishi Sunak’s government will decide to address them in the near future. With a general election looming on the horizon, we can only hope his party will see the promise of a strong community pharmacy network as a vote winner.

Beth Kennedy is the editor of C+D

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