Health secretary’s aide hears plea for government clarity on community pharmacy’s future

The All-Party Pharmacy Group met in the Houses of Parliament to discuss the challenges faced by pharmacists and the relationship between the government and pharmacy sector.  

Alex Chalk MP headshot

The government needs to be clear on where community pharmacy will stand in five years’ time, representatives of community pharmacy have told Alex Chalk, parliamentary private secretary to health minister Matt Hancock.

Russell Goodway, chief executive of Community Pharmacy Wales, was responding to a question from Chalk at an All-Party Pharmacy Group (APPG) meeting to discuss community pharmacy and the devolved nations. 

Goodway told Chalk that if there are plans to reduce the number of community pharmacies in England, the government “should be honest about it”. Goodway added that he “could not overestimate the importance” of a trust-based relationship between the government and pharmacy contractors: a sentiment echoed by Harry McQuillan, chief executive of Community Pharmacy Scotland, who said that the pharmacy sector should be trusted to allocate funding appropriately.

Also speaking at the meeting, held at the Houses of Parliament on 31 October 2018, was Gerard Greene, chief executive of Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland. His message to Hancock was that Northern Irish pharmacists are experiencing major workforce and well-being pressures, the service level was dwarfed by that on offer in Scotland and Wales, and that community pharmacy in his country was “in a bit of a crisis”. 

When asked by Kevin Barron, APPG chair, for examples of innovation in their home nations, Goodway highlighted the Choose Pharmacy scheme, through which the Common Ailments Scheme is delivered in 700 Welsh pharmacies, and the Discharge Medicines Review Service (DMRS), which provides community pharmacy support to patients transferring between care settings. Every £1 spent on the DMRS saved the NHS £4 in the longer-term, Goodway said.

In discussing challenges and opportunities currently faced by the devolved nations, Goodway said that the way pharmacists are currently paid led to a “perverse incentive” to keep dispensing medicines. McQuillan said the growth of pharmacists in GP surgeries presented an issue with community pharmacy recruitment and retention, but that this was also an opportunity for the sector.

McQuillan added that a minor ailments scheme (MAS), which is being extended to everyone in Scotland from April 2019, gave the country “a real opportunity to make pharmacy the first point of call”. Describing the national MAS as “the jewel in the crown” of Scottish pharmacy, McQuillan said it is highly valued by the public and the part of the contract that he was most proud of.

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Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, November 2018;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20205679