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Leadsom: ‘Laying the foundations for better-supported pharmacies’

In an exclusive opinion piece for C+D, new health minister Andrea Leadsom shares her thoughts on today's primary care recovery plan reforms and what they mean for community pharmacy

Writer Cynthia Ozick famously said, “We take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” Rarely is this more true than when we consider our wonderful healthcare professionals, including our pharmacists.

All those working in health and care deserve our gratitude, not just for the immense efforts during the past three years, but for their continued dedication to helping others.

Read more: Andrea Leadsom appears to confirm new pharmacy minister role

As an MP of 13 years – with three years as the government’s early years adviser – I have devoted much of my time to considering how we as a government can help people live longer, healthier lives by ensuring the support they need is there when and where they need it.

So I was thrilled to be invited to serve as a minister in the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) this week; a role that will see me support our GPs, dentists, and community pharmacists to deliver care where it is needed most and support them with the incredible work they do.

And there can be no better way to start than with a historic agreement between the department, NHS and pharmacy sector that will save lives and improve services.

The Prime Minister announced his aims in the primary care recovery plan and his particular focus on Pharmacy First in May and we now have unanimous agreement to introduce new services, which will make such a difference.

Read more: Launch dates announced for Pharmacy First and contraception services

Women will benefit from easier access to both consultations about oral contraception and the medicines themselves.

The number of blood pressure checks available within pharmacies will almost triple identifying the risk of a heart attack or stroke to tens of thousands of people sooner. Estimates suggest these checks will save more than 1,300 lives every year.

In the new year, pharmacists will be able to provide medicines for seven common conditions, bringing more customers and services into the shops.

I know it has been a tough time for community pharmacies, and as winter approaches, further challenges lie ahead. But backed by up to £645 million of government funding, Pharmacy First will provide much needed support and enable pharmacy teams to deliver first class care to even more patients. 

Read more: Pharmacy First negotiations ‘concluded’, CPE chief announces

It is telling of the commitment and devotion of the sector that the committee at Community Pharmacy England (CPE) unanimously agreed to accept the deal being offered with everyone recognising the difference this will mean to the public, to general practice and to the pharmacy sector.

This will be a phased roll-out – but one designed to make the most of the skills and experience on offer, not just from pharmacists, but throughout their whole teams.

Read more: Pharmacy First set for national launch ‘by end of 2023’ following consultation

This is part of a programme to lay the foundations for better-supported pharmacies but also better functioning primary care.

By using the expertise within the sector, this will also free up appointments in general practice – an estimated 10 million a year – so people can get the right care in the right place at the right time.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all those working in this vital sector.

Andrea Leadsom is the parliamentary undersecretary of state for the DH and the MP for South Northamptonshire 

Check the C+D site for the latest coverage on this developing story

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