Community Pharmacy England represents the sector at Conservative Party Conference 2023 

Community Pharmacy England attended the Conservative Party conference in Manchester this week. We were engaging with MPs and Ministers as well as representatives from health charities, patient groups, think tanks and journalists discussing key topics relating to our sector. 

Community pharmacy was referenced many times throughout the conference, which is in no small part down to the sector’s recent success in raising its profile amongst parliamentarians and national media. 

Our roundtable discussion on community pharmacy  

First up on our schedule of events was our own private roundtable: ‘Delivering on the PM’s health pledge: Does community pharmacy hold the key?’ held in the morning of Monday 2nd October. This event, hosted by Community Pharmacy England, was the only pharmacy-specific event of the conference. The event was chaired by Chris Green MP – a member of the Health and Social Care Select Committee and had pharmacy supporters including Paul Bristow MP and Elliot Colburn MP in attendance. Also present were representatives from patient groups, think tanks, health charities and frontline pharmacists.

Read the full summary of this event

Insightful sessions by Nuffield Trust and others

Later that day we attended a session run by the Nuffield Trust titled: ‘Can the government afford NHS?’. The Pharmacy Minister, Neil O’Brien MP was the main speaker at this event and referenced pharmacies in the context of how they could be better utilised to prevent ill-health, including via the upcoming ‘Pharmacy First’ service.  

We also attended a panel discussion hosted by the Spectator magazine called ‘The 26 million: how to care for people living with long-term health conditions’. Amongst the panellists was Employment Minister, Guy Opperman MP and former Health Minister, Lord Bethell. The discussion centred largely on what more primary care generally can do to help patients with long term conditions. The discussion also revolved around what reforms are required to the way that the Treasury evaluates policies to give greater credence to policies that might be expensive in the short term but will ultimately pay for themselves in the long term.  

A roundtable by NHS Providers and other key meetings

On Tuesday morning (3rd October), our CEO, Janet Morrison took part in an intimate roundtable hosted by NHS Providers: ‘No more sticking plasters – the need for capital investment in the NHS’. Other speakers included Health Minister, Lord Markham as well as colleagues from across the other primary care professions. Lord Markham was very supportive of the role that primary care plays in supporting the nation’s health and agreed that the current arrangements regarding estate across the primary care professions are inequitable. The discussion also focussed on ICBs role in terms of estate planning for primary care as well as the need for investment in the IT infrastructure and interoperability and in the NHS app and patient facing self-care.   

We separately had a very wide ranging and helpful meeting with the think tank, Policy Exchange, and hope to work closely with them in the near future.  

Health Secretary’s address and other events with national health charities

Later that day we attended a fringe event with the Health Secretary, Steve Barclay MP, who referenced the primary care recovery plan. Steve Barclay talked about ‘channel shifting’ and indicated that the government was supportive of measures that allow patients to access care more quickly. He said,  

“If the pharmacist can deliver antibiotics then the government would like to see them do so…pharmacists are very skilled, how do we make more use of our pharmacy network.”

See our response to the Health Secretary’s conference speech

On Tuesday evening, we attended a showcase of national health charities to learn more about what their current priorities are and how community pharmacy can help them. We plan to build on these relationships in the coming months via a series of theme-led policy roundtables following on from the publication of our Vision.  

Prime Minister’s keynote conference speech

In his main keynote conference speech, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak focussed on how his background and upbringing, as the son of both a GP and a pharmacist informs many of his values today: 

“My mother set up her own pharmacy. It was a proper family business. We all chipped in; as a teenager, I helped deliver prescriptions and do the books. I learned there the importance of being able to meet your commitments and make good on your promises.  

“The Sunak pharmacy left me with a lasting respect for every small, family business. This Conservative party, the party of the grocer’s daughter and the pharmacist’s son, will always be the party of enterprise, the party of small business.”

See our response to the Prime Minister’s speech

Future engagement at Labour Party Conference

We are gearing up for the Labour party conference in Liverpool next week, continuing our active influencing work in shaping better outcomes for community pharmacy.   

Help us raise awareness about the challenges the community pharmacy sector is facing by inviting your MP to attend our winter pressures event.

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