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Reflections on a tough year and hopes for 2023

It has been an extremely stressful year but, with Christmas approaching, let’s not forget some of the more hopeful and joyful events, says NPA chairman Andrew Lane

In May, along with 200 other pharmacists, I met the then Prince Charles at St James’s Palace to celebrate the work of community pharmacy during the pandemic. It was a wonderful evening and great to see our sector receive such high profile, much deserved, recognition.

The event resulted in superb coverage on the BBC’s One Show. As regards the media in general, it is fair to say that pharmacy now has a higher profile than ever and the national media are showing an increased interest in what we have to say.

Support for community pharmacy has continued to grow in Parliament. In December, I gave evidence to the health select committee on integrated care systems and, earlier in the year, over 50 Parliamentarians attended a ‘pharmacy pressures’ event in Westminster Hall and members of the APPG presented a petition to Downing Street highlighting the value of the sector.

New opportunities

There have also been signs of growing support within the NHS at local level. The Fuller Stocktake into primary care integration was published in May by NHS England. It gave a clear instruction that integrated care systems must break through silos in primary care and pointed to potential new opportunities for community pharmacies in urgent care and prevention including early diagnosis of cancers.

Integrated care systems have been told to develop a primary care forum or network at system level, with a breadth of views including professional representation. Taken together, this adds up to a significant opportunity for pharmacies to engage locally with the NHS.

Big debates

Looking ahead to the New Year, there will be some big debates in England about the sector’s fundamental purpose and direction of travel. The weighty matters we are going to have to navigate together include the future direction of the profession, the way community pharmacy is represented (with reforms to PSNC and LPCs), contract reform and how to redirect community pharmacy away from the cliff-edge of financial ruin.

Not everyone will agree on the way forward. We’d better all accept this at the outset and prepare to seek common ground and discuss our mutual concerns respectfully and constructively.

Meanwhile, I wish you all – and your friends and families – the very best for Christmas. May you come back reinvigorated for the New Year.

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