By Royal Pharmaceutical Society England board chair Sandra Gidley

As the dust settles from the publication of the long-awaited NHS Long-Term Plan, many across the profession will be looking to what it means in practice. There are certainly opportunities for pharmacy, but it would be fair to say some in the community sector will be wondering what happens next.

Pharmacists certainly featured more than ever before and it was great to see NHS England recognise how central their skills will be to meeting its ambitions around patient safety and delivering better value from the billions of pounds spent on medicines each year.

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By Gareth Jones, NPA head of corporate affairs

“I’ve just seen this NHS plan... and we’re not in it,” is how one NPA member reacted when the 10-year plan was published.

While it is true there are few references to community pharmacy specifically, there is a lot about community-based services, medicines, workforce, urgent care and prevention, which are all areas inherently in our sector’s sphere of interest.

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By Alexander Humphries*

Recently one morning, I found myself at the pharmacy counter helping a customer. She made some throwaway comment about everything getting more difficult because of Brexit. The next thing I know, the customer two back in the queue pipes up that “it was about time too”.

I watched her blood pressure rise as she began a polemic against every “foreign influence” on the country and society. This was really uncomfortable to watch because the poor lady I was serving really wasn’t launching into a political speech, rather simply making idle conversation.

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By NPA head of communications Stephen Fishwick

When you’re ‘pitching’ community pharmacy solutions to commissioners, policymakers, patients, politicians and others, pharmacy’s ‘access story’ is often a good place to start. Where else in the health service can you simply walk in off the street and get access to professional healthcare advice in a matter of minutes, usually without an appointment?

There’s also a great story to tell on prevention, public health and ‘making every contact count’. In fact, there is so much we can say – and do say – about the benefits of pharmacy that our messages can become rather cluttered if we’re not careful.

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We have received a letter from one of the local GP practices bemoaning the fact that we have been referring patients to them who needed to be seen urgently, a pharmacist writes

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By Ross Ferguson

Something that caught the eye of many colleagues in England was the announcement that the Scottish Government was providing dedicated funding for the Additional Cost of Teaching (ACT) of experiential learning (EL) for pharmacy undergraduates for 2018-19.

The hope is that this fantastic and pragmatic initiative will not only reimburse the costs involved, but that it will help to expand and enhance the quality of EL in hospital, community and primary care.

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By Alexander Humphries*

As I write this I am sitting in my bunker surrounded by boxes of stock. I know we have been told not to stockpile but to my mind it is a case of ‘needs must’ for my patients...

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By Jeremy Meader, managing director of Numark

Does NHS England or the Department of Health and Social Care recognise and appreciate fully the contribution of community pharmacy?

We all know the answer to that, but actually it is the wrong question. What we need to ask is how we can change that dynamic, move forward and secure a future that is financially sustainable, improves outcomes for patients and demonstrably helps the NHS address the huge challenges it faces.

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By Andrew Evans, chief pharmaceutical officer for Welsh Government

Independent community pharmacy understands the needs of communities because it is part of those communities – but there are very real threats to its future.

These threats are not from governments, automation, hub-and-spoke, changes in supervision, or clinical pharmacists in GP practices – believe it or not, these are opportunities. The threats don’t even come from Brexit.

The real threat is a change in consumer behaviour and a failure of pharmacies to adapt to that change. We are mistaken if we believe citizens will continue to access pharmacies in the same way and for the same reasons they do now.

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By NPA policy manager Helga Mangion

The Government has said ‘prevention is better than cure’ will be at the heart of the NHS Long-Term Plan. A key goal will be to improve healthy life expectancy by at least five extra years by 2035 and to close the gap between the richest and poorest.

That closely resembles one of the acid tests the NPA recently set out for the Long-Term NHS Plan, namely – will the poorest patients and communities benefit from the new investment promised? Other success criteria suggested by the NPA for the long-term plan seem to find a mirror in the vision document that accompanied Mr Hancock’s speech.

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