Ministers and officials know 'little' about pharmacy

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Ministers and officials know 'little' about pharmacy

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By Neil Trainis

National Pharmacy Association chairman Andrew Lane has revealed that conversations with ministers and senior health officials in the last year led him to realise “how little” they know about community pharmacy.

In an interview with Independent Community Pharmacist, Mr Lane (pictured) said the last 12 months during the pandemic had highlighted a lingering misconception within Government about community pharmacy, which has still not been reimbursed for its Covid costs, recently put at £400 million by PSNC. 

The Government has also so far refused to write off £370 million in advanced funding and there was no support for community pharmacy in the spring budget, much to the frustration of PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes, who described it as “exasperating and disappointing.”

“Simon is definitely showing his frustration. Having spoken to many ministers and senior officials in the last 12 months, it is surprising how little they knew about what community pharmacy did,” Mr Lane said.

He hoped ministers are “a lot clearer now because we’ve been banging that drum for at least 12 months”.

Increasing numbers of community pharmacies across the UK are involved in the Covid vaccination programme and some pharmacists believe that will help convince the Government of their clinical value to patient care. However, Mr Lane said many ministers did not even know pharmacies provided flu jabs.

“You do get a sense that ... the Government hasn’t had as much control over what NHS England does as you would perhaps think. Community pharmacy is a broad church; not everybody provides flu jabs. That was a common surprise that many ministers hadn’t realised. I was thinking 'you’re a minister and you don’t even know we do flu [vaccinations]’.

“To think that there are many senior politicians out there who didn’t even know we did flu jabs or the scale [to which] we did having just come through the largest flu campaign in our history. It was brilliant to be able to use that to some of the naysayers who said 'Covid vaccinations: you’re not really qualified to do that’.”

Criticism over PPE

The NPA chairman also criticised health secretary Matt Hancock’s suggestion earlier this year that there was no national shortage of personal protective equipment, revealing that a lack of quality PPE led to “several deaths of NPA members and NPA member staff.”

“We did report on that for those who allowed us to because we believed it was the tragic outcome of not having the right equipment at the time,” he said.

“It was down to the family whether or not they wanted that reporting and our communications team was certainly in touch with those bereaved families who were involved with community pharmacy at the time.

“It was in the early part [of] April and May last year when we were hearing these stories coming through.”

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