It was with a sense of joy that I learned from the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) last week that the chief executives of five national pharmacy organisations are offering support for an ‘NHS assembly’ – “a new stakeholder forum being created to oversee progress on developing long-term plans for the NHS”.
A glance through the announcement shows a desire from community pharmacy organisations – the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, the Company Chemists’ Association, the National Pharmacy Association, PSNC and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society – to actively engage with NHS England.
It also draws attention to the value of community pharmacies, and the fantastic work we already do to maintain patient safety and deliver expert pharmaceutical care to patients – close to home, in the community. It shows a collective will to promote community pharmacy as a central pillar of the solution to the NHS's woes.
In their letter, the chief executives of the organisations talk of promoting a sustainable NHS, with pharmacies easing the pressure on overstretched GPs and hospital services. It is exactly where, in my opinion, we need to be heading – and as a frontline community pharmacist, it is great to hear that the bosses think this too.
How we can achieve this with such financial stress, and the threat of closure hanging over much of community pharmacy, is a conundrum. But it is one that needs sorting, and sorting now. Collaboration is the key.
The biggest thing I take from this is that I've now read a letter to NHS executives, signed by organisations representing the majority of pharmacy owners and pharmacists. Such collaboration is quite simply epic. We need more of this.
Please let this be the start of a collaboration to support the only real solution to community pharmacy's survival – a service-based element for the community pharmacy contractual framework. NHS England needs to receive the message loud and clear that we, pharmacy organisations and professionals, stand together for our patients and the sector.
David Gallier-Harris is a pharmacy manager for a large multiple in the West Midlands, and a member of the government’s board to “rebalance” medicines legislation and pharmacy regulation