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'Don't forget pharmacy in attempts to improve access' - Conservative delegates

The government must "go beyond" focusing on GPs to provide patients with improved access to primary care, says Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston

Attempts to improve access to primary care must "go beyond just looking at GPs" and increase engagement with other healthcare professionals, says Conservative MP and health select committee chair Sarah Wollaston

The government must not forget pharmacists as it promises to improve access to primary care, healthcare leaders have told C+D.

Prime minister David Cameron announced plans on Tuesday (September 30) for the whole population to be able to book a GP appointment from 8am until 8pm seven days a week, but Conservative MP and health select committee chair Sarah Wollaston said pharmacy had a "huge role to play" if the government hoped to expand patient care.

"It's not just a GP-focused solution. In an ideal world it would be lovely to be able to offer seven-day access, but at the moment we do have a shortfall [of GPs]," Dr Wollaston told C+D in an exclusive interview at the Conservative party conference.

Attempts to improve access must "go beyond just looking at GPs" and find ways of increasing patient engagement with other healthcare professionals, such as pharmacists and nurses, she stressed.

Dr Wollaston expressed doubts about implementing the government's plans in rural areas; smaller practices would struggle to stagger their staff's work shifts across 12 hours, she said. 

Jennifer Dixon, chief executive of charity the Health Foundation, agreed that "well qualified" pharmacists could play a "much bigger role" in helping GPs improve access to care.

Providing more GPs would produce a greater demand for appointments, said Dr Dixon, who suggested that investing in healthcare access that "isn't face-to-face" – such as via Skype – could be more cost-effective.

 "If your [aim] is to build more resilience amongst the population then it is [about] giving them access in their own homes. The question is, could it be remote and not face-to-face?" she said.

Both Mr Cameron and health secretary Jeremy Hunt used the party conference this week to pledge to open GP surgeries for 12 hours a day, seven days a week by 2020, while Mr Hunt also confirmed plans to "train and retain" 5,000 extra GPs. 

Although he failed to refer to community pharmacy in his speech, Mr Hunt told C+D during a fringe event that pharmacists had a "fantastically important role to play" in the health service. 

Have the Conservatives done enough to promote pharmacy? 

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Asmita Patel, Community pharmacist

we hear a lot of lip service about pharmacists being under utilised and how they are best placed for easy access to improve patient care, Blah,blah.blah.blah.......Enough talk! Why is nothing put into action?The politicians seem to recognise the problem and even have the solution [if they recognise it that is] but do nothing. If this is meant to be a feel good factor for the pharmacists then IT IS NOT WORKING!!

Sami Khaderia, Non healthcare professional

Pharmacy can have HUGEEEEEEEEEEEE role to play and the ball can start rolling by introducing a national minor ailments scheme providing meds such as contraception, trimethoprim x 3 day course, fucidin for impetigo etc etc.

SP Ph, Community pharmacist

... and the pharmacist incharge (RP) be given targets ...... I Love It.

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

Admirable sentiments and hopefully she is in a position to alter things. She can start by b0ll0cking the representative from PHE on the news this morning who mentioned everybody except Pharmacy in the flu campaign this year.

Sami Khaderia, Non healthcare professional

You can tell election time is approaching when folks promise things which fail to materialise.


Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

I think the way things are going it will be Ed Minibrain in charge next year, for better or worse!

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

It's about time these comments from Politicians stop being published as they're meaningless and purely for their own benefit(ie getting votes)

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