Pharmacists need to start "organising themselves" around the "most powerful" health figures in their local area ahead of next May's general election, a primary care expert has said.
"Post-election austerity" was the most "fertile" ground for change in the healthcare system, and pharmacists should ensure they start building relationships locally to take advantage of that, according to National Association of Primary Care co-chair Charles Alessi.
Dr Alessi, also a GP, predicted that the NHS's financial crisis would break down barriers between GPs and pharmacists and encourage healthcare professionals to become better connected. "Now is the time for change," he said at a C+D webinar, sponsored by Actavis, last week (November 26).
"Post election, there will be the need to make big changes, and the time now [should be spent] getting the relationships going. Think laterally around who is most powerful in the area, and get closer to them," he said.
Dr Alessi also predicted that relationships between commissioners and providers would change to include more people in decisions about spending on healthcare, which could benefit pharmacy.
"Everybody is going to have to make decisions based on who is best suited. If pharmacy is the place where people have best access, surely it's where most of the uncomplicated, non-communicable diseases are being managed," he said.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society President Ash Soni agreed that pharmacists would have to get closer to other professionals to work as part of a team, but warned that the sector must keep its "professional autonomy".
"There's a benefit and an advantage that we provide in terms of access that is over and above working in GP practices, it's got to be autonomy of independent knowledge that works with GP, but working in a way that is collaborative," he told the webinar.
In October, the Independent Pharmacy Federation told C+D that pharmacy leaders would campaign to "raise the profile" of the sector to politicians ahead of the general election.