APPG chair and Labour MP for Rother Valley Kevin Barron would like to see the healthy living pharmacy (HLP) initiative included in the contract, as it has a “role to play” in improving public health, he told C+D exclusively at the Labour party conference in Brighton last week (September 25).
"We want to see change in pharmacy for the better, and to use the skills in the profession better," he said. "We get it right in a lot of HLPs."
“Most pharmacists I've talked to were more than happy to do it – to look after their flock.”
The APPG also wants to talk to Mr Brine about whether there is "room for improvement" in "the shape of the pharmacy contract and how pharmacists work, from small independents to those working for the big companies", Mr Barron told C+D.
Mr Barron’s spokesperson said Mr Brine has confirmed he will meet the APPG, either at the end of October or early November.
Pharmacy is "not just about dispensing," Mr Barron continued. "We ought to be looking at how we bring [the contract] into the 21st century," he said. In part because "a lot of [patients] get medication and never use it".
"Go back 30 years, I heard pharmacies used to get about 50% of their income from prescriptions; now it's 90-95%," Mr Barron said. "Something is wrong there."
The MP referred to his own mother, who had a year’s supply of prescribed ibuprofen stored in her cupboard, because "nobody actually sat her down and asked her if she's using it".
Over-prescribing "will be an area we want to cover in our meeting" with Mr Brine, he added.
Pharmacists on local health boards
The APPG chair touched on the under-representation of pharmacists across local commissioners. "I would like to see more pharmacies on health and wellbeing boards," said Mr Barron, who also claimed you are "more likely to get a firefighter than a pharmacist" on a clinical commissioning group.
This is an issue the APPG "ought" to look into, he said.
More funding cuts?
Referring to the funding cuts in England, Mr Barron said the current government debate around the future of pharmacy funding is "clear as mud".
"It's up to the government if there are going to be any more 'efficiency savings' – as they call it. If [there are], they should take into context the future of pharmacy."
"We need to get major players talking to one another about the future," he added. "I hope that's something we will be doing in the next few months with the APPG."
When the funding cuts came into force in December 2016, pharmacists were speaking to a lot of MPs, Mr Barron pointed out. "Maybe they should do that on a regular basis, beyond [the topic of] efficiency savings."
When the APPG last met, it delivered seven recommendations to the government on the future of community pharmacy. Find out what was recommended here.