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Opinion: There must be fuel in the tank


Opinion: There must be fuel in the tank

I recently took the opportunity to explain the consequences of the financial squeeze on community pharmacy to MPs at Westminster, says Sanjeev Panesar, NPA board member.

A study commissioned by the NPA has revealed that NHS funding for community pharmacy in England is down 29 per cent since 2019 when the current contract started.  

It is a bleak picture and this month I took the opportunity to make this clear at the AGM of the All-Party Pharmacy Group (APPG) in Parliament.   

I stressed that what is unique and often overlooked is the social interaction we have with our patients on almost a monthly basis due to our medicines supply function. We really get to know our patients and their families for generations, and we have a fantastic opportunity and platform to make meaningful lifestyle interventions and provide other timely support.

We can help eat into the NHS backlog by freeing up capacity elsewhere in the system. It is estimated that at least 20 million and perhaps as many as 40 million GP appointments for minor ailments per year could be transferred to community pharmacy. We can dramatically improve people’s access to primary care by providing a wider range of NHS services in the pharmacy setting and expanding our role in preventative care, for example vaccinations and health checks. 

“Community pharmacies are running on fumes”

Pharmacies should be considered the front door to the NHS – the first port of call for any health-related issues. 

We are easily accessible and can provide same-day care, advice and support. This mindset and understanding already exists in Scotland and, to a growing extent, in Wales, where a ‘pharmacy first’ approach is gaining traction and pharmacists are able to prescribe for patients. 

Game changer

By 2026, all new pharmacy graduates will qualify as prescribers. With sufficient political, managerial and professional will, utilising this resource in community pharmacies in England could be a game changer in terms of our ability to treat people more conveniently and take pressure off doctors. 

All these things should mean that policymakers and NHS officials are falling over themselves to invest in us.
We hear the increasingly positive noises from NHS England and our political leaders in Westminster in support of community pharmacies – but this is not matched by any financial investment.

None of these things can happen, I told the APPG, if there is no funding to create the capacity needed to deliver these objectives. We can’t take the road that the NHS, the Government and patients want us to take if there is no fuel in the tank.  

Community pharmacies are running on fumes – and the network can only take so much until it breaks down.

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