Recently I met the pharmacy minister, Alistair Burt, at his office in Whitehall. The meeting coincided with a campaign milestone: that same day we reached a quarter of a million signatures on the Downing Street petition against Government plans that put pharmacy services in England at risk. By the time you read this, the number will have at least doubled.
I sensed that the minister was keenly aware of the strength of feeling within the sector against the Department of Health proposals and the widespread concern amongst patients. It is a great achievement of the campaign so far that, collectively, we have been able to draw these heartfelt concerns and anger to the attention of decision-makers, while also constructing a highly positive narrative about the value of the community pharmacy network and its future.
The end of the official consultation period is less than two months away and we must make full use of this time to complete what we have started. If we can keep up the momentum of the campaign, there is a real opportunity to re-set the direction of Government policy in relation to pharmacy. Please do not feel that your individual efforts are futile – combined with the activities of many others they are already making a difference.
More politicians are actively engaged in the defence of the pharmacy network than at any point in recent years. More people in more communities are conscious of what is at stake and are mobilising behind us. Pharmacy representative bodies are closely aligned and working together.
So, if you’re thinking, “the Government has made up its mind; what’s the point?”, think instead about this:
Your efforts so far are already creating the results we intended at this stage of the campaign. With all this in mind, if you have already sent completed petition forms back to the campaign centre, please consider collecting more signatures – give all your patients an opportunity to register their concerns. If you haven’t collected any signatures, please act now.
Also, keep those letters and postcards going in to MPs. I encourage you all to stay positive and confident that we will come through this together. Let us all keep going and maintain that enthusiasm to push on, to win hearts and minds, and to shape the future for the better.
There is a real opportunity to re-set the direction of Government policy