Commons Health Committee says pharmacy is ‘creaking under the strain’ of funding pressures

The Health and Social Care Select Committee has today published the report of its inquiry into community pharmacy.

The Committee noted that community pharmacies are ‘creaking under the strain of funding pressures’, and the MPs warned about the impact medicine supply issues.

The Committee also recognised the potential that pharmacies have to expand their clinical services offering, doing more to support patients and the wider NHS.

Community Pharmacy England CEO, Janet Morrison, and Director of Pharmacy Funding, Mike Dent, gave evidence to the inquiry in February. This followed our written submission to the inquiry last year, with supplementary evidence submitted on medicines supply issues in March.

During the session they warned MPs that patients will continue to face problems accessing medicines unless supply problems in the UK are eased, and the critical financial state of community pharmacies is resolved.

They said that pharmacies and patients were continuing to face the consequences of ongoing medicines supply issues, and these are combining with wider financial and operational pressures to leave community pharmacies battling for survival.

They also set out how, with the right investment and support, community pharmacies could do much more in line with the Vision for Community Pharmacy set out by Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund.

The Committee’s report includes a number of key recommendations in support of community pharmacies, including for:

  • An overhaul of the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework: closing the funding gap and reducing complexity;
  • Tackling of medicines shortages by introducing generic substitution, commissioning an independent review of the supply chain and reviewing SSPs;
  • Commitment to further promotion of Pharmacy First and offer free medications under the service for people on low incomes;
  • Publishing a long-term vision for the expansion of community pharmacy services to include development of Pharmacy First and expansion of support for people with long-term conditions;
  • Introduction of an Establishment Payment to support the development of consultation spaces for patients; and
  • An integrated and fully funded workforce plan for pharmacy.

These recommendations are in line with the needs of the community pharmacy sector and Community Pharmacy England thanks the Committee for their inquiry into this critical topic. We will seek discussions on this with the new Government following the General Election.

Janet Morrison, Community Pharmacy England Chief Executive said:

“This report is another powerful endorsement of all that we have been making the case for. It underlines both the warnings that we have been making for many months about the perilous state of pharmacy businesses, as well as highlighting the untapped potential that community pharmacies have to offer even more for patients and the NHS if they are given the right investment and support.

We agree with the Select Committee that the pharmacy funding gap needs closing and that pharmacy owners need a transparent and fair funding system, including funding to support premises development, and that the medicines supply chain must be reviewed. We also support their calls for more promotion and an expansion of Pharmacy First, and for the NHS and future Government to set out a long-term vision for development of clinical services in the sector. As Nuffield Trust and the King’s Fund concluded in their Vision for Community Pharmacy, the sector has so much more to offer if it is empowered and given the capacity and investment to do so.

Ahead of the General Election we are urging all political parties to commit to supporting community pharmacies and their patients by introducing a long-term sustainable funding model, reviewing the medicines supply chain and investing in the clinical future of community pharmacies including through workforce planning and support.

The new Government must take note of these important recommendations from the Select Committee. We will be raising this directly with them and with NHS England and we want to work constructively with them to deliver solutions for pharmacy, for patients and for primary care, at pace.”

Zoe Long, Community Pharmacy England Director of Communications, Corporate and Public Affairs, said:

“Select Committee Inquiries are influential across Parliament and we are grateful to the Health Committee for focusing on community pharmacies in this inquiry. The Committee rightly recognises the very critical position that pharmacy businesses are now in, and has set out a plan for resolving this. This is another report which we can use to engage with all political parties.

We will be highlighting the clear recommendations as we continue to call for a funding increase and the other urgent solutions that community pharmacies need, alongside demonstrating their potential. We look forward to working the new members of the Select Committee to support their ongoing work.”

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