Pharmacy bodies call on new health secretary to boost funding for sector

The joint letter to Wes Streeting called for sufficient funding, holistic workforce planning and improved medicines security to help address the challenges faced by the NHS.
Photo of Wes Streeting, who was announced as health secretary on 5 July 2024

Pharmacy bodies have written jointly to new health secretary Wes Streeting calling for reform and investment in pharmacy to enable the sector to help cut waiting times for GP and hospital appointments.

The chief executives of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), Community Pharmacy England, the Company Chemists’ Association, the Independent Pharmacies Association and the National Pharmacy Association wrote to Streeting on 5 July 2024 — the day he was appointed as health secretary, following the Labour Party’s general election victory.

In the letter, the pharmacy bodies said they were “ready and willing” to help the new government address the challenges faced by the NHS, but that sufficient funding, holistic workforce planning and improved medicines security were needed to allow the sector to do so.

The letter added that investment in community pharmacy was crucial to maintaining patient access to medicines, realising Labour’s vision of a return of the ‘family doctor’ and embedding a greater focus on prevention in the NHS.

It also underlined the importance of contractual frameworks responding to workload demands and the economic environment, for the medicine supply chain and margin arrangements to be reviewed, and the expansion of Pharmacy First to free up GP capacity.

In its manifesto, published on 13 June 2024, the Labour Party promised to address pressure on GP surgeries by improving access to treatment through new routes, such as through a ‘Community pharmacy prescribing service’, “granting more pharmacists independent prescribing rights”.

Following the election result, the RPS said it was already engaging with new ministers and MPs to highlight important issues from its own manifesto, which include addressing the growing challenge of medicines shortages, fair funding, and investment in hospital pharmacy and aseptic pharmacy services.

Tase Oputu, chair of the RPS English Pharmacy Board, said: “Our joint report with The King’s Fund highlighted how pharmacists across healthcare will be central to reducing health inequalities, managing the growing cost of long-term conditions and delivering best value from medicines for patients and the NHS.

“There are some key enablers to make this a success, including workforce planning to ensure a pipeline of pharmacists to meet demand, commissioning new pharmacist prescribing services, and much-needed investment in electronic prescribing and interoperable patient records. These were recognised by the [House of Commons] Health Select Committee Inquiry into pharmacy, and we are urging the new government to consider the inquiry’s recommendations closely.”

In a report published on 23 May 2024, the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee called for a complete overhaul of the community pharmacy contract model in England, following its inquiry into pharmacy services, having been given evidence of annual financial shortfalls of at least £67,000 per pharmacy in England and up to around £100,000.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, July 2024, Vol 313, No 7987;313(7987)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.323349

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