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Streeting: Shift needed in NHS funding to primary care including pharmacy

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Streeting: Shift needed in NHS funding to primary care including pharmacy

The shadow health secretary Wes Streeting did not commit himself to a firm answer on whether a Labour government would increase community pharmacy’s global sum during a Proprietary Association of Great Britain event in London yesterday but he insisted there needs to be a “shift in the proportion of NHS funding that goes into primary care” including pharmacies.

Streeting told Independent Community Pharmacist during the event, hosted by the Daily Mirror, that his party is keen to move care out of hospitals and into local communities by channelling funding from the NHS budget into primary care but cautioned that would be done “in a managed way” and “over time.”

“In all seriousness, we do need to see a shift, a real shift, not just in the centre of gravity out of hospitals and into community, but a shift in the proportion of NHS funding that goes into primary care, including community pharmacy because I think that will lead to better outcomes for patients and better value for taxpayers’ money,” he said.

When told his predecessor as shadow health secetary Jonathan Ashworth had said during the Pharmacists’ Defence Association’s launch of its Safer Pharmacies Charter at the House of Commons in 2017 that Labour would “reverse” the Conservatives’ funding cuts if they got into power, Streeting said: “The irony is that I get called in front of Jonathan Ashworth on our plans for preparation for government and one of the things that he probes with Rachel Reeves (the shadow chancellor) and Darren Jones (shadow chief secretary to the Treasury) is to make sure we don’t have any unfunded spending commitments.

“So, let me go back and check the record on what Jon said. That will be a fun meeting.”

Criticising the way the Conservatives rolled out Pharmacy First, with community pharmacy leaders believing its implementation was rushed, Streeting acknowledged pharmacies’ workload is increasing as funding pressures heap greater pressure on their under-resourced teams.

“It is kind of a tragic irony really that on one hand, you’ve got the government saying the right things and trying to do the right things in terms of Pharmacy First, albeit the execution has been a little bit hit and miss in terms of the pace of the roll-out and training and some of those challenges, also against a backdrop of pharmacies closing left, right and centre,” he said.

“So, at the same time as we’re saying we need pharmacy to do more, we’re seeing fewer pharmacies, so we’ve got to get that right. It’s the same challenge in general practice as well, where we’ve got GPs saying they can’t get a job and the practice can’t afford to take them on at a time when patients are literally queuing around the block in some places because they can’t get a GP appointment.”

PAGB: Government must prioritise self-care

The event also heard from PAGB CEO Michelle Riddalls, who said self-care must be prioritised by whichever party is in power after the general election because it “empowers people by giving them the tools they need to take ownership of their health” as well as reducing demand on the NHS and health inequalities.

“What we don’t have yet is a healthcare system that fully integrates the promotion of self-care for self-treatable conditions,” she said. “That’s why PAGB are calling on the next government to ensure that self-care is an integral component of efforts to reduce pressures on the NHS and to build a sustainable healthcare system for the future.”

Citing figures from a PAGB-commissioned report published last year that showed about 25 million GP appointments and five million A&E appointments are used for self-treatable conditions, Riddalls said: “This unnecessary use of NHS resources is avoidable through better use of self-care.”

She urged the government to work with the OTC sector to increase public awareness of self-treatable conditions and improve access to “digital tools to direct people to self-care information.”

“We also need to fully integrate pharmacy’s role in primary care and ensure a supportive and attractive environment for self-care and innovation in the sector to expand access to OTC medicines,” she added.

Earlier this month, the PAGB called on all parties ahead of the general election to re-evaluate “the restrictive criteria for switching” prescription-only medicines to OTC medicines in their manifestos.

The event was held in partnership with the PAGB, University College London Business and iNHouse Communications.

Pictured: PAGB CEO Michelle Riddalls and shadow health secretary Wes Streeting.


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