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Conservatives pledge to expand Pharmacy First conditions if re-elected

The Conservative Party has said it will expand the Pharmacy First service to include two additional conditions if it wins the upcoming general election.

The Conservatives will free up 20 million GP appointments through an expansion to the Pharmacy First service if re-elected, according to current health secretary Victoria Atkins.

Atkins announced the expansion on Sky News’ Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips and via X (formerly known as Twitter) yesterday (June 2).

She said that the proposed expansion would include the treatment of “chest and skin infections”, seemingly bringing the scheme’s total number of conditions covered to nine.

Read more: No new pharmacy contract until ‘after the election’, says CPE

And she added that patients would also be able to access “menopause help” as well as contraceptive services from pharmacies under the plans.

“Of course this expansion will be funded as well, we’re doing it in a really interesting and thoughtful way,” she told Sky News.

Read more: Expand Pharmacy First to include free OTCs for low incomes, urges HSCC

A Conservative Party spokesperson confirmed that the plan would see Pharmacy First expanded to cover more conditions such as acne and chest infections, offer contraceptive patches and injections in addition to the oral contraception already available, and provide menopause support including HRT. 

The "fully costed" plan would be "paid for by cutting back the number of NHS managers to pre-pandemic levels and halving management consultancy spend across government to get more money to the front line", they added.

 

 

“Confident start”

 

The health secretary said that Pharmacy First has had a “really confident start” and that the scheme’s inaugural months have been “good for pharmacists”.

She added that the Conservatives want to continue using pharmacists “to the top of their licence”.

TV show host Sir Trevor challenged this claim, saying that pharmacists have been given “more work and less money”.

Read more: General election: The pharmacist vs the Tory GP grandee

But Atkins said that is “not correct”, stressing that Pharmacy First has been funded “to the tune of £645 million”.

Sir Trevor also said that pharmacists are in a position where they “literally can’t afford” to participate in the scheme.

Atkins responded that “98% of pharmacists” have taken up Pharmacy First and that 120,000 appointments were conducted under the service in the first month.

 

“By the end of the next parliament”

 

When asked for a timescale on freeing up 20 million GP appointments, Atkins said that the target would be achieved “by the end of the next parliament”.

She added that the scheme is about “using our community services more imaginatively”.

Read more: C+D election tracker: How will pharmacy vote at the July 4 general election?

The health secretary also pledged to “rebuild” GP surgeries and community diagnostic centres (CDCs).

She announced on X that a re-elected Conservative government would “build or modernise” 250 GP surgeries, as well as build 50 new CDCs.

 

“No-brainer”

 

Chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) Malcolm Harrison welcomed the Conservatives’ proposal to expand Pharmacy First, calling it a “no-brainer”.

Harrison said that the CCA is “delighted” that the party agrees with its calls for the scheme’s expansion.

He noted that community pharmacy core funding has been cut by “30% in real-terms” since 2015 and that “almost 1,200 pharmacies” have closed since then.

Read more: Teenagers could deliver prescriptions under Tory national service plans

And he stressed that the “foundations” of the community pharmacy sector “urgently need fixing”.

This pledge from the Conservatives comes as 43% of respondents to a C+D snapshot poll stated their intention to vote Labour in the upcoming general election on July 4.

Just 14% said they would vote Conservative, while 27% are undecided and 16% plan to vote for another party.

Read more: Pharmacy First: New funded pharmacy PCN liaison role as just 31% of GPs refer

Last month, the Prime Minister said that Conservative Party plans to introduce national service in the UK could see 18-year-olds delivering prescriptions.

Meanwhile, NHS England (NHSE) announced last week (May 28) that it would fund a new primary care network (PCN) role in order to boost Pharmacy First uptake.

This followed the news that only 31% of GP surgeries have referred patients to the scheme, according to the latest CCA data.

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