Core Belief: Community Pharmacy Can Do So Much More

‘Our premises are conveniently located health & social care assets in neighbourhoods across the country.  Our skilled people have the capability to do so much more if liberated to do so.’

Chris Ford is the Head of Parliamentary Affairs at the NPA. He has previously worked for several MPs, a US Senator and as a political advisor to a number of large corporations. He is also a politician himself, having been elected as a Parish and District Councillor in May 2015. With a title like this you probably think I am going to talk about the fabulous untapped potential of community pharmacy, and how this can transform primary care forever. If you’ve been in any way involved in the sector over the last 30 years you will certainly have heard these words before. I don’t know about you, but I’m rather tired of talking about potential – after all, it’s just another word for missed opportunity; and as we face an existential health crisis that threatens the very existence of the NHS as we know it, I don’t think we can afford too many of those. Don’t get me wrong – there are vast reserves of potential within pharmacy and we have plenty of evidence to make our case; but there is the rub – we need to get far better at making our case. It is perhaps understandable that, following a relatively successful national campaign that nonetheless resulted in significant funding reductions, community pharmacy has lost some of its confidence, but I think the key to securing the sector’s future is recapturing that confidence.…

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.

Why? 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.…

New Government, new opportunity?

Politics – some love it (myself included), most hate it but we all talk about it and we all have an opinion. For pharmacy, politics has been centre stage for at least the last 18 months with no sign of this changing in the foreseeable future.

The public have certainly made their feelings known to Government on just how important community pharmacy is to them; in the midst of the Brexit referendum, a change of Prime Minister and a junior doctors’ strike, Community Pharmacy collected over 2 million signatures protesting plans to cut its funding – a petition that would prove to be one of the biggest in UK history. It’s quite clear to anyone prepared to listen – voters do not want funding for pharmacies cut, they do not want services reduced and they categorically do not want their local chemist to close. With that message still ringing in the ears of candidates up and down the country, pharmacy has become an important issue in this latest election campaign. Capitalising on the relationships we have built with key Parliamentarians, we have already exerted a formative influence on pharmacy policies within all three of the major UK-wide parties’ manifestos. And this influencing will continue as we redeploy our lobby your MP tool to target candidates at this election (more on this next week). In fact, much of the information we would like policy leaders to known can be found on a dedicated website, developed in collaboration with all the major representative bodies for pharmacy: https://pharmacymanifesto.com/…