Opinion: In Wales it's all about true partnership
It was a proud moment for me to welcome fellow independent pharmacists and board colleagues to a NPA centenary celebration in Cardiff last month.
First Minister Mark Drakeford paid tribute to the work of pharmacy teams during the pandemic and health minister Eluned Morgan promised further development of the role of community pharmacy.
These are not just fine words – they are meaningful because they are, I believe, absolutely sincere. They are based in a belief that community pharmacies are both a vital healthcare resource and also an anchor for economic activity at high street level. The ‘community’ bit of ‘community pharmacy’ really does appear to matter.
Ministers and officials also understand that a wide distribution of pharmacies is necessary in order to play a key role in unscheduled care, so they aim to maintain the network at close to the current levels (approximately 700).
There is clear evidence of the Welsh Government’s willingness to back its ambitions for pharmacy service development with financial investment – not something that can be said for our next door neighbours...
The Welsh Government has given a commitment to inflationary increases in service fees and with a 6 per cent rise overall: £8m each year over the next three years. Ring-fenced funding for independent prescribing services, not just for training, is another example of money well spent. The aim is for an independent prescriber to be in every community pharmacy in Wales by 2030.
Admittedly not everything in the garden is rosy. Like other parts of the UK, we are currently facing a critical shortage of pharmacists in the community sector.
Many contractors have reported shortages, leading to some isolated temporary closures. Rural areas are feeling the shortages acutely, but even city-based pharmacies have reported issues. There is a concern that this could get worse before it gets better and this will be another test of our collaborative approach.
We often hear about the ‘Five Cs’ of community pharmacy in Wales (Collaboration, Continuity, Community, Capacity and Connectivity) as a way of describing the road to success here. I think there is a sixth component to add to those: Commitment, to work in partnership over the long-term, through thick and thin, in the interests of all the people of Wales.