The National Pharmacy Association
The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) is the body which represents the full spectrum and vast majority of community pharmacy owners in the UK. We count amongst our members the nationwide pharmacy multiples, regional chains and independent pharmacies.
Most NPA staff are based in St Albans – a 25 minute train journey into Kings Cross St Pancras. Our Chief Executive, Chairman, Senior Pharmacist and Head of External Relations are available for interviews and commentary. We also maintain a network of approximately 70 spokespeople – generally practising community pharmacists. Some of these are willing to let their premises be used for filming.
Of all health professionals, pharmacists have the most comprehensive education and training in the use of medicines for the prevention and treatment of disease. They undertake five years pharmacological and medical training. Pharmacists work within a code of ethics that requires them to continuously develop their professional knowledge and competence relevant to their field of practice.
Pharmacists are responsible for the supply of most medicines available to the public. They advise the public and other professionals on the safe and effective selection and use of medicines and other health-related matters. In recent years, community pharmacy has expanded its role, and now supplies a wide range of NHS services such as minor ailments schemes, stop smoking services and help for people in managing their weight.
Britain’s 13,000 community pharmacies are visited by members of the public over 2 billion times each year, and nine in ten of us visit a pharmacy at least once a year.
Pharmacies provide a range of services in the heart of neighbourhood communities where they are within reach of the people who need them most – poorer people, older people and people with a disability or chronic condition. The Government has already recognised the potential of community pharmacy as “perhaps the biggest untapped resource for health improvement…a resource for reducing health inequalities, especially for vulnerable and deprived populations” .
Topics about which the NPA has strong and expert opinions
Community pharmacists derive approximately 85% of their income from the NHS. Government has described them as “an integral part of the NHS family”. The Darzi Review made clear that community pharmacy should be centre stage for public health.
- The NHS estate/Polyclinics etc
Government programmes to develop new health facilities across England (including GP led health centres and polyclinics) have the potential either to enhance or to dislocate existing, accessible networks of care. The NHS sometimes confuses ‘co-location’ with ‘integration’, thereby risking service fracture and creating pockets of under-provision where neither a GP nor pharmacist is present.
NHS commissioning of pharmacy services is highly variable. The Department of Health admits that ‘many PCTs work hard at fostering a vibrant community pharmacy service, with dedicated staff supporting the expansion of choice and services, (but) that commitment is variable’. Pharmacy in England is intended to progress community pharmacy towards a sustainable clinical role, and local commissioners need to perform their role competently in order to effect this change, in partnership with providers.
- Access to services / health screening
One of the great strengths of the community pharmacy network is its accessibility - a healthcare professional available in neighborhood locations, often without the need for an appointment, for longer hours than most health services. Pharmacies are therefore ideal locations for screening services – e.g. for sexual health, cardiovascular risk and allergy – all of which are currently high on the NHS and pharmacy agenda.
Increased public investment in community pharmacy would mark a shift to more equitable health provision by bringing a wider range of NHS services into the heart of neighbourhood communities where they are within reach of the people who need them most. Overall, deprived areas in England have a higher number of community pharmacists per head of population than more affluent areas.
- Medicines and the medicines supply chain
Of all health professionals, pharmacists have the most comprehensive education and training in the use of medicines for the prevention and treatment of disease.
Community pharmacists are bearing considerable additional pressures on the pandemic front line – given the increased demand for health advice at this time. Many pharmacies are also locations for the supply of flu anti-virals such as Tamiflu.
Community pharmacy plays a role in maintaining social cohesion. In many locations, health professionals are at the heart of community networks. Pharmacies provide employment for local people and may also act as anchors for economic activity, thus helping sustain a commercially viable high street.
- Devolution / prescription charges
Pharmacy policy and practice is diverging across the UK. This leads to certain challenges and peculiarities, for example around the administration of prescription charges (the NPA favours abolition of charges).