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Numark MD attacks Coffey after she calls for more from pharmacy


Numark MD attacks Coffey after she calls for more from pharmacy

By Neil Trainis

The Numark managing director Jeremy Meader has launched a scathing attack on Thérèse Coffey after she suggested pharmacies could take on more work this winter despite the government’s refusal to inject any new money into the community pharmacy contractual framework.

Mr Meader (pictured) accused the health secretary of failing to “understand or value” the sector and insisted she had “fumbled the opportunity to prevent a crisis in the NHS this winter” in plans she disclosed last week to ensure patients have easy access to NHS and social care as another tough winter promises to stretch services.

Ms Coffey said pharmacies can alleviate pressure on GPs and free them up to take more appointments by “managing and supplying more medicines such as contraception without a GP prescription.” She said this could free up as many as two million GP appointments each year.

Ms Coffey also said pharmacies can take referrals from emergency care for minor illnesses including coughs, headaches and sore throats. 

Mr Meader asked: “Does she not understand that as a result of years of government underinvestment in England the network is in decline with random closures across the country? Too many pharmacies are temporarily closed every day due to workforce shortages beyond the control of pharmacy owners.

“Asking more from our sector with no new investment is a strategy which is bound to fail. The pharmacy contract remains economically illiterate. The sector’s finances need open heart surgery not a couple of paracetamol tablets.

“Adding a new service here and there, even with some additional funding, does not address the longer term viability of the network which needs to know which patient services it will be expected to provide over the next 10 years, not just the next few months, and how those will be adequately remunerated.”

He said Coffey had also failed to take into account a workforce shortage within community pharmacy that he described as a “crisis.”

“The government wants us to provide more services whilst at the same time NHSE is busy poaching qualified staff from the community pharmacy sector which leads to temporary pharmacy closures because the government has failed to reform supervision regulation or enact other capacity releasing changes,” he said, accusing the government of having a “disjointed” approach to community pharmacy in England.

Pointing to the progress made in Scotland where a pharmacy first scheme allowing pharmacies to help people treat conditions such as sore throats, earache, cold sores and urinary tract infections has been funded and implemented, Meader said the profession in England was living off “annual unpredictable bread crumbs from the table” in contrast.

“The sector was in financial crisis before (Coffey’s) announcement and it remains in crisis. A&E departments are already struggling to cope with demand, the GP network is in decline and the community pharmacy sector is also in decline as a result of government funding austerity in England,” he said.

“That is a recipe for a perfect storm for the NHS in the months ahead and a potential systemic failure for patient care over the winter months.”

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