Bhayani’s Battlebus

14 Jun 2024

It has been manifesto week this week, where the political parties reveal their pledges to voters and the nation. So, did they say anything about pharmacy? I’m delighted to tell you that community pharmacy was in all three main UK party manifestos. After years of lobbying, building relationships with the main political parties, and representing our members and the sector, it’s a great achievement to have pharmacy formally recognised in a general election. Of course, we’re not stopping there, we’re going to keep pushing to secure a brighter, better future for our members and the sector!

So, let’s have look at the details in the manifestos……

The Liberal Democrats were first out of the blocks with their general election manifesto. Sir Ed Davey’s speech launching the document specifically referenced the need to invest in pharmacies and other primary care settings. The document promised to work towards a fairer and more sustainable long-term funding model for pharmacies, and build on the Pharmacy First approach to give patients more accessible routine services and ease the pressure on GPs. It’s fantastic to see these pledges, I don’t think a promise to fix pharmacy funding has ever been in a manifesto! Another highlight in the manifesto was a proposal to free up GPs’ time by giving more prescribing rights and public health advisory services to qualified pharmacists and other health professionals – another central message from the NPA to make full use of the prescribing and clinical skills of community pharmacists.

Next to publish their manifesto was the Conservative Party. We were pleased with the Conservative’s pledge to invest in primary care and expand the Pharmacy First service in England. Specifically, they have promised to expand Pharmacy First, including for menopause support, contraception and treatment for chest infections, freeing up 20 million GP appointments a year. We’ve been having conversations with senior Downing Street advisors to expand Pharmacy First and invest more in primary care, so it’s good to see they’ve taken on board our ideas. The Conservatives also pledged to modernise NHS primary care services and bring health and care closer to patients.

And finally, the Labour Party launched their manifesto. We’ve had positive conversations with Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, and his team, so it’s good to see Labour taking the transformative role community pharmacies can play seriously. Labour have pledged to create a new Community Pharmacist Prescribing Service, which would give more community pharmacists independent prescribing rights and enable community pharmacists to use their prescribing skills from the pharmacy setting. This is really positive and could help to expand the clinical work of pharmacies. Labour also wants a greater focus on the management of chronic, long-term conditions – community pharmacy can play a major role in this area. Labour also pledged that ‘more services are delivered in local communities’ and to ‘shift resources to primary care and community services’ – this could be very positive news for community pharmacy, and again we have been lobbying for this transformation.

What’s been happening around the UK? We know that health is a devolved matter, however the NHS is such an important issue for the pubic that it is high up the election agenda across the UK. This week, the leaders of Scotland’s larger political parties went head-to-head during a BBC Scotland debate, and NHS waiting times was a key debating issue. Also this week in Scotland, NHS funding dominated the First Minister’s Questions session. In Wales, Plaid Cymru launched its 2024 election manifesto this week, in which they have pledged to recruit an extra 500 GPs. Like other parts of the UK, concerns have been raised that primary care services in Wales are struggling to cope with huge pressures. In Northern Ireland the main political parties include: Democratic Unionist Party (DUP); Sinn Féin; Alliance Party; Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP); Ulster Unionist Party (UUP); and Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV). As far as we know, these parties haven’t published a manifesto yet.

Overall, this week, it’s been great to see our long-term engagement paying off, with some meaty pledges and opportunities for our sector. It’s fantastic that we now have a political consensus that community pharmacies are very much a key part of an expanded future primary care network.

However, we are of course using every opportunity during this general election to press home the point that pharmacies are suffering badly from funding cuts and need urgent investment to remain open and thrive. We will continue to win the argument that every penny spent on the pharmacy network is a penny well spent on priorities that are important to patients – and of course voters.

And finally, our #SaveOurPharmacies campaign is gaining momentum! Please join our Day of Action next week on 20 June! Don’t forgot, you are all voters and election candidates will be trying to get your vote! So why not ask them “If you’re elected as my MP, how will you stop my pharmacy and other local pharmacies from closing permanently?”