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A remarkable feat of resilience and commitment

Wherever you practise in the UK, winter means more work. Pharmacies have a lot on their plate – and I don’t just mean Christmas dinner, says NPA chair Nick Kaye.

In England, it is a race against time to prepare for the new Pharmacy First service beginning at the end of January.  Then there’s the flu vaccination programme and the relentless financial pressures too.

So it is with some reluctance that I start this message with a plea to think ahead to 2025/26 – however much I may empathise about the workload immediately in front of you.  

If you want to recruit a foundation year trainee pharmacist for that period, you must start the process in January 2024. You need to express an interest through the Oriel programme, which will be the only route. The NPA website contains tips for successful recruitment using Oriel.

Rollercoaster ride

Now back to 2023. It has been a rollercoaster ride for pharmacies and many of you will feel that there have been more downs than ups.

The sector has been plagued by medicines shortages and faced spiralling costs. For some owners, the financial pressures have been such that they have left the market altogether. Meanwhile, a lack of available capacity in the workforce has been a continuing problem throughout the UK.

In such circumstances, it has been a remarkable feat of resilience and commitment by pharmacy teams to maintain a high-quality service for patients.

On the plus side, there is to be considerable investment in the expansion of NHS pharmacy services in England – the first genuinely new public money in years. In 2024, expect the NPA to provide lots of help to deliver an excellent Pharmacy First service. It is vital that the sector succeeds with this – both for patients and for securing future investment in community pharmacy.

There have also been meaningful steps towards the widespread deployment of independent prescribing, although the full benefits of that are in the future.

We know there will be many other challenges to meet and, as ever, the NPA will be supporting members with best-in-class training, business and practice resources – as well as effective advocacy in the spheres of policy, politics and NHS commissioning. 

Speaking of which, in the past few months, we have helped arrange pharmacy visits for the health secretary, the pharmacy minister and both their Labour Party shadows.

Stronger position

I’m pleased to report that the number of pharmacies in NPA membership has grown substantially this year. That puts us in a stronger position to argue for the interests of independent community pharmacy and we intend to make this extra weight count.

I wish you all a peaceful Christmas.

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