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James Waldron: My open letter to the new pharmacy minister

"This is your chance to speak out, Mr Mowat"

Dear David Mowat MP,

I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment as minister with responsibility for pharmacy last week.

I imagine that taking on a new portfolio can be quite overwhelming, so I thought it would be helpful to lay out some of the areas where you could make a real impact:

1. Firstly, please take the time to listen to the sector. It is full of individuals who are passionate – not only about improving outcomes for their own patients, but about the expanded role they could play in the health sector. Just look at the tributes to Day Lewis’s Kirit Patel to see what an impact forward-thinking pharmacists can have on people’s lives.

Attending industry events is a useful way to increase your knowledge of community pharmacy – as is reading C+D, of course – but most important are regular visits to pharmacies themselves. There you will find pharmacists and their teams who are keen to showcase the incredible, and often innovative, work they do each day. I understand that your local LPC – Cheshire and Wirral – has already sent you an invitation. With MPs off for the summer recess, why not take them up on the offer?

2. You may have seen recent national media coverage of the pressures pharmacists and their staff are under. This can take many forms – financial uncertainty, top-down target pressure and sheer workload – all while delivering consistently top-rate patient care. As frontline healthcare professionals, the plight of struggling pharmacists needs to be recognised. The General Pharmaceutical Council has set out a “programme of work” to address these issues this year, and this initiative would benefit from a minister with your political clout throwing their weight behind it.

3. Your predecessor Alistair Burt was overseeing a blunt £170 million cut to pharmacy funding in England. Mr Burt once admitted that this funding cut could result in the closure of as many as 3,000 pharmacies across the country. At a time when the NHS is being squeezed from all sides, the proposed cut will not only be an assault on small-business owners – which your party claims to champion – but could have a devastating impact on thousands of patients who rely on them for support and advice. I notice that the Department of Health has delayed its announcement of the full details of the cuts while you get up to speed. This is your chance to speak out.

Yours sincerely,

James Waldron,

C+D Editor

At C+D, we want to raise awareness of the experiences of pharmacists who are struggling under workplace pressures – whether that’s from tough targets, inflexible area managers or under-staffing. So send your examples to [email protected], with the heading ‘pharmacy pressures’, and make sure to state if you want us to keep your identity anonymous.

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Mohammed Patel, Community pharmacist

Congratulations to Mr Waldron on having the courage to mention workplace pressure. Let's hope this is the start of something good for the industry.

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