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Editor's comment: A platform for growth?

The devil will be in the detail but the Government’s £645m investment in pharmacy in England represents a major shift in thinking.

I had planned to devote my editorial comment in the May print edition of Pharmacy Magazine to slamming the disgraceful and divisive decision to reduce the core hours of 100-hour pharmacies.

But then the news came through that the Government had promised to invest £645m in a new common conditions service as well as expanding the contraception and hypertension case-finding schemes. There was also a commitment to significantly improving the digital infrastructure between community pharmacy and general practice.

That’s publishing deadlines for you. Hold the front page. 

So now that the dust is beginning to settle – is this really the “momentous game changer” that some in the sector are claiming? 

The portents are promising. As ever, the devil is in the detail, but if this really is new rather than rebadged money, it represents a major step forward for community pharmacy in England. The common conditions service plays perfectly to pharmacies’ strengths while taking the pressure off GPs at a time of great strain for the NHS. It’s a big win for patients too.

Don’t forget the bigger picture, either. Pharmacists love delving down into the weeds but this service package is also about further integrating pharmacy into national and local NHS systems.

No one is getting too carried away, least of all PSNC, for whom the hard work starts now. It is far from clear whether this new investment will come even close to making up the vast chunks of core funding unceremoniously gouged out from the sector at a time of escalating costs, spiralling workload and crippling workforce issues. These all need addressing urgently. 

The services will fail if they are not resourced properly; teams are operating beyond breaking point as it is.

One final point. There was some ill informed comment doing the rounds in the national press and on social media about whether pharmacists were capable of supplying antibiotics safely and appropriately. Short answer – yes, they are. Indeed, all the evidence suggests that pharmacist prescribers actually show better antimicrobial stewardship than other prescribers.

Happy to clear that one up for any naysayers out there.

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