Matt Hancock said that throughout the pandemic, “pharmacies provided open access support and care that is deeply embedded in the communities they serve” when delivering his vision on the future of healthcare at the Royal College of Physicians today (July 30).
Speaking about the seven lessons that can be learned from COVID-19, Mr Hancock highlighted the need for “better, less fragmented decision making”.
He said that there are “decades-old” barriers between different “primary care, community care, pharmacy [and] acute care”.
But he stressed that these “don’t work now”, due to the pandemic and living in a time where many people have “long-term, complex conditions”.
Instead, working collaboratively is “how people work when they really need results”, Mr Hancock said, adding that when many secondary care appointments were cancelled during the pandemic, primary care clinicians stepped in to support patients.
Pharmacies also offered support to patients in the community during that time, Mr Hancock continued. Pharmacies have shown “how much more they can do” and “this is the spirit that I want us to channel as we move out of the pandemic”, he added.
The health secretary also outlined the government’s intention to “burst bureaucracy” to support healthcare collaboration, and invited health and social care workers to contribute ideas on how to achieve that.
NHS People Plan
It comes as the NHS today published its People Plan, in which it sets out its intention for how the health service should grow and support its workforce.
“Respecting the staff at all levels and supporting them is… at the heart of the People Plan and I sincerely hope that will help with retention,” Mr Hancock said.
On the issue of pay, he said that while the government achieved “a three-year Agenda for Change deal” for those who are directly employed by the NHS, it is “harder” to oversee pay in other sectors, such as social care or community pharmacy.
“Pharmacies are very much part of the NHS but they have a different model of employment,” he said.
However, the government has “taken an overall view of supporting our people to do the best job that they possibly can”, he added.
Commenting on the publication of the NHS People Plan, Professor Claire Anderson, chair of the English Pharmacy Board at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said that “COVID-19 has highlighted the real need for pharmacy to be integrated as part of the NHS family, so it’s vital that all pharmacists and staff delivering NHS services can access the right support wherever they might work”.