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Sector welcomes Labour’s promise of ‘greater role’ for pharmacy

Sector leaders have broadly welcomed Labour’s ambition for community pharmacy to take on a “greater role” in primary care, but some have challenged the Party to “go further”. 

Wes Streeting, shadow secretary for health and social care, stressed that he wanted to see a “greater role for community pharmacy” in comments made earlier this week (October 10) at the Labour Party conference that were warmly received by the sector's leaders.

Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) chief executive, Dr Leyla Hannbeck, told C+D that the statement came in response to a question she asked Mr Streeting about what his and Labour’s plans were to “save our local NHS pharmacies” while in a standing-room-only Q&A session. 

He said that a larger role for community pharmacy “would be great for patients, great for our high streets and great for poor old GPs”, who “can’t meet the demand”.

The Labour MP for Ilford North added that he has “been doing a lot of community pharmacy visits and working with national representative bodies to look at how to rescue community pharmacy”. 

“This wasn’t just the community pharmacy audience,” Dr Hannbeck said of the people in the room when the comments were made. “This was a wider stakeholder group…so for these comments to be made in front of [this] audience is obviously important,” she added.

 

Prevention better than cure

 

During his keynote speech on Wednesday (October 11), Mr Streeting told delegates that Labour’s “plan for the NHS” would have primary care at its “heart”.

He also stressed the importance of preventative care in what he called the Party’s “reform agenda”, and said that the plan would be focussed on “preventing ill-health, not just treating it”.

He stressed that it was Labour’s “mission to get the NHS back on its feet and fit for the future” through “time, investment, and reform”.

 

“Urgent need” to fix pharmacy funding

 

In a statement released yesterday (October 12), Malcolm Harrison, Company Chemists' Association (CCA) chief executive, said that he “welcomes” Mr Streeting’s advocacy for “a greater role for community pharmacy and a focus on preventative healthcare”.

He stressed, however, that “we still believe there is an opportunity for the Party to go further with community pharmacy, beyond the measures outlined in the mission”.

He added that the CCA has already “directly shared our views” with the Party, and have “made it abundantly clear that there is an urgent need to fix the foundations of pharmacy funding and avert further permanent closures."

 

“Positive noises”

 

Janet Morrison, chief executive of Community Pharmacy England (CPE), said yesterday (October 11) that CPE was “pleased to hear shadow ministers making positive noises about community pharmacy”.

She highlighted that Mr Streeting’s ambition for a greater role for community pharmacy “aligns with the discussions we have had with him…in recent months”.

And she said that Labour’s “clear focus on prevention” and acknowledgement of the “critical need to shift the focus from secondary to primary care” is “in line with the recently published vision for community pharmacy”.

The vision, which was published last month by think tanks The Kings Fund and Nuffield Trust, recommended that pharmacies act as wellbeing “hubs” for community health services.

It also recommended changes to the law to allow prescription dispensing “without a pharmacist on site”, saying that this will “level the playing field” with GPs.

Ms Morrison added: “While what we heard from Labour this week was encouraging, our work to build further support for pharmacy will continue…ahead of the next community pharmacy contractual framework (CPCF) negotiations and general election.”

 

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