Chief Executive’s blog: December 2019

Chief Executive’s blog: December 2019

“Returning Secretary of State is committed to ‘unleashing the potential’ of pharmacies”

By Chief Executive Simon Dukes

Finally, after months of impasse, one party has a majority in the House of Commons and a legislative mandate. The focus of the Government over the coming weeks will be to deliver the Withdrawal Agreement and embark on a legislative programme: in part trying to catch-up on work that was shelved because of Brexit planning and the resulting political stalemate; but also looking to deliver on some ambitious (and expensive) manifesto pledges.

The NHS was a hot topic throughout the election period, and PSNC has to tread a careful path by not commenting on specific party political declarations regarding the health service – as the negotiator, we have to work with which ever party is in power – but needing to get key messages across about community pharmacy and the current pressures we are under as a sector. Hopefully you spotted the pharmacy manifesto we collaborated on with the other national pharmacy organisations – if not, you can still see it at It sets out the policies that we want the new Government to work with us on. A number of candidates contacted us about this #votepharmacy initiative, and our attention is now focused on taking forward some of those policy objectives with the MPs that have been elected.

With 140 new MPs elected to Parliament, unsurprisingly pharmacy lost a number of friends in this election – including Sir Kevin Barron who had chaired the All-Party Pharmacy Group (APPG) for some 20 years. But we’re delighted to welcome back many MPs who have backed pharmacy in the past, and we’re now working on engaging with some new faces. Our public affairs work is closely aligned with that of the RPS, NPA, CCA and AIM, and in particular we are now all focused on persuading more MPs to support the APPG, which we all jointly fund. The Group has been a voice for the sector across Parliament and the House of Lords for the past two decades, investigating key issues such as medicines shortages, and helping us to showcase the value of potential of community pharmacy and pharmacists. The Group’s mission will be unchanged by the result of the election: a group of supportive MPs who are willing to stand up for us in Parliament and to scrutinise pharmacy policy.

Similarly, the new Government doesn’t change PSNC’s approach in the short term. Several contractors have been in touch already pointing out that PSNC must ensure pharmacy gets a share of any new cash for the NHS. All political parties promised lots of things to get elected, and we will want to wait to see whether any new money is actually going to be forthcoming for healthcare, and if so where it might be headed. In the past year, the term ‘NHS’ has referred to hospitals and GP/nurse recruitment and that is likely to be where any new money is destined.

Rest assured however, PSNC will be doing all it can to argue the case for further investment in our sector. Returning Secretary of State Matt Hancock has already said in his first speech since the election that he is committed to ‘unleashing the potential’ of pharmacies, making them the first port of call for patients with minor illnesses over the next five years. That’s great to hear, but as you will have heard me say on more than one occasion: it is the capacity and costs of doing more in community pharmacy that will be the barriers to this vision. I look forward to working with this new Government over the coming months and years to overcome them.

A lot can still happen during the lifetime of this unprecedented five-year Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) given the inevitable political and economic change to come. When we negotiated the CPCF in July 2019, we had no idea what political colour the Government would be in 2020, and although that point has now been clarified we still have no idea how Brexit trade deals (when eventually secured) will affect the wider economy let alone medicine supply; what the impact of the dissatisfaction of Scottish voters will have on England; and who will be Heath Secretary and/or Pharmacy Minister after the PM’s anticipated major reshuffle in the New Year. The five-year deal provides us with economic certainty in the midst of all these variables, but it also gives us the platform to argue our case for additional funding – and that is exactly what we will be doing.

Finally, don’t forget there are plenty of naysayers still out there: politicians, civil servants, and other healthcare professionals who will take every opportunity to talk our sector down. So, it is not solely the responsibility of PSNC (nor indeed NPA, CCA, AIM, PDA and RPS) to make the case for pharmacy. We all need to highlight the good work pharmacies are doing locally and shout loudly where community pharmacy has changed and saved lives (and the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service gives us a great opportunity to do this). So let’s make 2020 the year of community pharmacy: we are saving the NHS from itself – helping to ease the pressures in GP surgeries and reduce A&E waiting times by taking on more clinical services as well as promoting self-care and healthy living to 1.6m people per day. Let’s make sure this new Government knows it.

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