Suggested Learning

A calmer view

The stakeholder briefing for the future of community pharmacy is much more positive

Last month I was very angry. I’ve now calmed down and taken the time to read properly the letter sent by the Department of Health to PSNC concerning the proposed funding cuts.

The dictatorial tone of the letter is set by its threats of cuts and closures, so a knee-jerk response is unsurprising. However, the stakeholder briefing for the future of community pharmacy is much more positive. It acknowledges the vital role of community pharmacy, and that we could play a much greater role in optimising medicines, treating minor ailments, supporting people with long-term conditions, preventive care and promoting better health.

It says the “vision is for community pharmacy to be integrated with the wider health and social care system”. It’s music to my ears, so why do I find it difficult to trust?
It’s partly because of the way this has all been handled, with a complete absence of sensitivity, a determination to steam-roller the whole thing through, and alarming talk of cuts to remuneration and pharmacy closures.

My suspicion is raised by a simple question: if the stakeholder briefing genuinely sets out the government’s vision, why is it presented as if it’s all radically new, with the obvious implication that previous discussions with us as a profession have been unproductive? I see it differently: we have been willing partners in developing a new vision, but the Department of Health has not reciprocated and our efforts have been frustrated.

If the growth in pharmacy numbers has led to 40 per cent of pharmacies being grouped together in clusters, what’s required is an honest and transparent – preferably independent – assessment of how many pharmacies are needed, and where. The negotiations that follow will be difficult, but not impossible. Cutting funding across the board – as proposed – is a very blunt instrument that is unlikely to achieve the desired effect of integrating pharmacy into primary care, and deliberately pushing thousands of people into bankruptcy is morally repugnant.

The document says the government is open to any proposal that will drive efficiency and innovation. If it’s sincere, it’s a good starting point. Let’s get talking!

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