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Sector bodies launch manifesto calling for ‘expanded’ Pharmacy First service

Sector leaders have joined forces to launch a new election manifesto calling for an expansion to the recently launched Pharmacy First service.

Community Pharmacy England (CPE), the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) have today (March 5) published a joint manifesto for the sector.

The “#VotePharmacy” manifesto, launched ahead of the general election expected this year, calls for election candidates to back a “six-point plan to unleash the potential of community pharmacy”, the bodies said.

This includes rolling out an “enhanced Pharmacy First service for England, mirroring the highly successful approaches taken in Scotland and Wales”, they added.

Read more: AIMp calls for pharmacy bodies to work together on ‘simple manifesto’

The document said that sector leaders “welcome” the new service - which currently covers seven common conditions - and are working to ensure that it is rolled out “at pace”.

But it added that they “also want to see the service expanded, mirroring highly successful approaches taken in Scotland and Wales, allowing pharmacists to supply over-the-counter medicines too”.

Read more: No plans to expand Pharmacy First conditions ‘at present’, says Leadsom

It comes as pharmacies have reported experiencing long Pharmacy First consultations, most of which do not reach the gateway criteria for payment, and that the service is “harder to implement” than expected - all amid ongoing delays to promised IT updates.

As well as calling for the government to “build on” the Pharmacy First service, the manifesto called for it to:

  • “Fill the funding gap and commit to long-term sustainable funding”

  • “Support and enhance the community pharmacy workforce”

  • Conduct an “end-to-end review of the medicines supply chain”

  • Create an “ambitious roadmap for independent prescribing” to “empower community pharmacists to do more”

  • “Make pharmacies centres for public health, prevention and reducing health inequalities

Expanded service “makes sense”

CPE chief executive Janet Morrison said that the manifesto is “very much in line with the investment and support that [the negotiator] continues to press for” and will help it to do so.

“The general election campaigning period is always an important moment to highlight community pharmacies – both their value and the critical situation they now find themselves in – and to start to build parliamentary supporters for the future,” she added.

Read more: ‘A lot of failures’: Less than 40% of Pharmacy First consultations secure fee

She urged pharmacy owners and representatives, as well as local pharmaceutical committees (LPCs) to support the manifesto and “make community pharmacy’s voice heard ahead of the election”.

CCA chief executive Malcolm Harrison said that the bodies “want to see Pharmacy First enhanced and expanded at pace” because “doing so makes sense for patients, pharmacies and the NHS”.

“The launch of Pharmacy First is a positive first step towards changing the future for pharmacy however, without additional investment in the core funding for medicines supply, we will continue to see further closures,” he added.

“Urgent political response” needed

And NPA chief executive Paul Rees said that the manifesto “spells out the many challenges requiring an urgent political response”, adding that it is “critical” that the next government recognises that community pharmacy “is facing its biggest crisis in living memory”.

“We urgently need a new deal for pharmacy – which among other things must include a massive injection of funding and an end to community pharmacy being treated as a second-class citizen within the NHS, where it is viewed as a way to squeeze out cost instead of as a valued clinical service,” he said. 

Read more: ‘We have to be realistic’: Government could impose new contract, CPE warns

Meanwhile, RPS England chair Tase Oputu added that it is “vital” that the next government “makes the most” of the opportunity as more pharmacists become prescribers to “transform patient care and ensure a positive future for community pharmacy at the heart of the nation’s health service”.

The bodies announced that they would use the hastag “#VotePharmacy” to share updates throughout the election campaign, with further information and guidance available on their campaign hub.

Read more: Pharmacy bodies join forces to fight for more funding as closure threat looms

It comes after Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) chief executive Dr Leyla Hannbeck called for pharmacy leaders to “come together as one sector” and agree on a single manifesto in September.

Meanwhile, the government said in November that no assessment had been made “so far” into expanding the new common conditions service beyond the initial seven conditions it covers. 

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