Shadow health secretary in talks over how to increase community pharmacy numbers

Setting out plans to free up GPs, Wes Streeting said he was in talks with pharmacists "to see what more a Labour government could do to support and expand community pharmacy — both in terms of number and also the range of support they’re able to provide".
wes streeting

The shadow health secretary is in talks with pharmacists over plans to increase the number of community pharmacies under a Labour government, The Pharmaceutical Journal has been told.

This follows the latest figures from NHS England, which show that the number of community pharmacies is at its lowest in seven years.

In a speech at The King’s Fund on 21 April 2023, Wes Streeting, shadow health secretary, set out plans to improve patient access to general practice by enabling patients to receive “the help they need from a wider range of healthcare professionals closer to home”.

As part of the plans, Streeting said that patients should “be able to go to their local pharmacy to receive simple things that they currently get at GP surgeries, like vaccinations, free of charge on the NHS — with patients seen faster, GPs [would be] freed up to do more appointments”.

“We’re seeing some progress in relation to things like prescribing, but I think we could do a lot more with community pharmacy,” he added.

Health secretary Steve Barclay told the House of Commons in January 2023 that he would also like to see pharmacists “do even more”, alluding to the long-awaited roll out of a ‘Pharmacy First’ minor ailments service for the sector in England.

When asked by The Pharmaceutical Journal for details on his plans to have pharmacists offer more services, Streeting said: “I think that there’s a lot more that community pharmacists can do in terms of health checks, in terms of being the first port of call for people needing to access healthcare and … pharmacists are pretty well placed to help patients navigate the system and tell them where to go.”

He added that pharmacies are “often a lot more local and a lot more accessible than GPs, which is why some of the announcements we’ve seen from Lloyds about shutting shop rather than opening is really concerning”.

In January 2023, LloydsPharmacy announced plans to withdraw pharmacy services from more than 200 Sainsbury’s supermarkets owing to “changing market conditions”.

An analysis by The Pharmaceutical Journal revealed that supermarket-based pharmacies at risk of closure could displace nearly 1 million prescriptions each month on to surrounding pharmacies, leading to what trade bodies have described as a “domino effect” of further closures.

“One of the things I’ve been doing actively on the campaign trail is visiting community pharmacies, talking to pharmacists, talking to the national bodies to see what more a Labour government could do to support and expand community pharmacy — both in terms of number and also the range of support they’re able to provide,” Streeting said.

“As we’ve heard this morning — especially from the GPs who contributed — there’s more than enough work to go around, so we’re not talking about pitting people against each other. But I think frankly, general practice could do with additional support in the community to help with reducing GPs’ workload.”

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, April 2023, Vol 310, No 7972;310(7972)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2023.1.182536

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