A watershed moment…
Something remarkable happened last week. For the first time in the history of community pharmacy, we received commitments in the manifestos of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat Parties.
Because, after all the hard work, campaigning, researching, tweeting and MP hand-holding, our sector is finally becoming politically relevant.
The national media coverage in opposition to the cuts has certainly focussed minds across the political spectrum.
The countless meetings held with MPs over the last two years have also educated our Parliamentarians about all those things we do that they had previously taken for granted and assumed ‘just happened’.
But, above all, it’s the 2.2 million signatures collected in support of local pharmacies that has proven to candidates and political parties alike that support for their local pharmacy can actually win votes at this election.
We have to be realistic – we do not command anywhere near the political clout of GPs and junior doctors. This was plain to see when the BMA’s well-timed intervention on practice funding was able to punch through to the national broadcast media even as Theresa May was stepping up to the podium to launch the Conservative Manifesto.
But as someone who has worked in and around politics all his life, I sense that perceptions are truly starting to change. Doors that have remained firmly closed to us over the last 18 months are starting to be left ever so slightly ajar.
And please, never underestimate the power of a manifesto pledge.
Despite the cynicism that surrounds political promises these days, manifesto pledges are still taken very seriously and you can rest assured that the NPA will be holding whoever forms the next Government to account. For our part, we will enthusiastically embrace these pledges from the political parties – making it clear to them that we noticed, and that we are telling as many people as possible about the promises they have made.
I trust the reasons for doing this are pretty obvious…
But despite this remarkable achievement for community pharmacy, we still have a long, long way to go. And your involvement in this election is a crucial part of that journey.
I mentioned last week that we have developed tools to support our members and the public as they seek to make clear to candidates what pharmacy really means to them and their communities;
They include an election pack for our members, containing a poster and leaflets. Also, we have redesigned our popular Lobby Your MP Tool to reach out to candidates too. By visiting election.supportyourlocalpharmacy.com you’ll be able to see the details of all your local candidates and send them a personalised message, outlining how much you value your local chemist.
I’d encourage you to use these tools to full effect ahead of the Election on 8 June. With a concerted effort from you, combined with our own exciting plans for after the election, we have a unique opportunity to create a sustainable future for community pharmacy, where the respect you have earned from those you serve is matched by the politicians and officials that govern us.
Chris Ford, Head of Parliamentary Affairs, NPA