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Health secretary isn’t my cup of Coffey


Health secretary isn’t my cup of Coffey

If any independents out there are hoping things might get a little better under the new health secretary Thérèse Coffey, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Jeremy Meader was spot on. “The English Health Secretary has fumbled the opportunity to prevent a crisis in the NHS this winter,” the Numark managing director said, justifiably coruscating in his condemnation.

“She either does not understand or value the role of community pharmacy as the third pillar of patient access to essential healthcare.”

Reading back through Coffey’s plan to free up general practice and give patients better access to NHS and social care services this winter, I thought Meader had not gone far enough. Coffey needs to get a better grasp of her brief.

“Pharmacies will help ease pressures on GPs and free up time for appointments by managing and supplying more medicines such as contraception without a GP prescription … and take referrals from emergency care for minor illnesses or symptoms,” a Department of Health and Social Care statement on her behalf read.

These are things community pharmacies do already. The key word is more. Coffey and her department think community pharmacies have the capacity to do more even as they refuse to give the sector much-needed additional funding. That was presumptuous and provocative. Does she not realise that pharmacies are enduring a workforce shortage and some are being forced to close?

“We will work tirelessly to deliver… alongside supporting our hardworking GP teams,” she said. No mention of any support for hardworking pharmacy teams.

“Stop chasing media headlines and come and experience the coalface reality of operating a pharmacy serving local communities,” Meader told her. But Coffey and the DHSC weren’t done. They went on to demonstrate they don’t understand what makes community pharmacy special.

“The government will free up funding for practices to employ more roles…in addition to the roles they are already able to recruit such as pharmacists, mental health practitioners and nursing associates.”

Never mind GP pharmacists Thérèse. It's community pharmacy teams who alleviate the pressure on other parts of the health system. It's community pharmacy teams who can reach people on the periphery of society, those who normally find access to healthcare hard to come by.

It's community pharmacy teams who should be at the heart of the government's community-based integrated care blueprint.

It's community pharmacy teams who should be funded properly because at the end of the day, the NHS needs them. And patients need them.

Neil Trainis is the editor of Independent Community Pharmacist.

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