Medicines supply will fail if pharmacies cannot keep lights on, warns Community Pharmacy England

Patients will continue to face problems accessing medicines unless Government both eases supply problems in the UK, and resolves the critical financial state of community pharmacies, Community Pharmacy England has warned.

Janet Morrison, CEO, and Mike Dent, Director of Pharmacy Funding, both gave evidence to the Health and Social Care Select Committee on Monday 19th February.

They warned that pharmacies and patients are 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.

Janet Morrison, Community Pharmacy England Chief Executive, said: 

“The inquiry by the Select Committee comes at a critical time for community pharmacies and their patients. With the recent launch of Pharmacy First, pharmacies are providing ever more for the public, giving people improved access to health advice and care. But a combination of the ongoing financial squeeze, operational pressures, and medicines supply and pricing issues has left pharmacy businesses fighting for survival. As the NHS continues to grapple with wider challenges, this is a battle that patients cannot afford for pharmacies to lose.

“If we continue to see pharmacies close, it is not only business owners and pharmacy teams who will suffer: patients and local communities will also face the consequences. If pharmacies cannot keep their lights on, medicines supply will falter and access to wider pharmacy services – including Pharmacy First – will also decline.

“Despite the desperate state of their businesses, pharmacy teams are working flat out to protect patients from the impact of medicines supply issues and to deliver the new Pharmacy First service. But they are powerless to resolve wider supply issues, and despite their efforts, all too often people are having to wait for their medicines: this can be frightening, as well as harmful to their health.

“Government and the NHS must ensure that all patients can continue to access the medicines and pharmacy services they need. To assure this we need sustainable investment in community pharmacies and their future – and this means a funding uplift – and we also need them to review the medicines supply chain, letting pharmacies use their clinical skills to help in the meantime. Without both these steps, we can expect the current disruption to continue and worsen: as pressures on the health service continue, Government and the NHS can simply not afford to continue to stand by and watch as pharmacies turn out their lights for good.”

The Parliamentary Health and Social Care Select Committee – an influential group of MPs in the healthcare policy arena – are holding a Pharmacy Inquiry, the recommendations of which will be important for the future of the sector. Steve Brine MP, Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, recently wrote a guest blog about his ongoing inquiry into pharmacy.

Ms Morrison and Mr Dent gave evidence to the MPs on Monday 19th February, following on from the full and detailed written response which we submitted last year. The evidence session was also attended by representatives from Diabetes UK, the British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA), and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).

Watch the oral evidence session

Pharmacy owners regularly rank medicines market instability – relating to both supply and pricing issues – as one of the most severe pressures facing their business in our regular sector polling. These issues are exacerbating wider financial and operational pressures to leave community pharmacies battling for survival.

Community Pharmacy England is continuing to warn Government and the NHS about the ongoing impact of the extreme financial pressures that community pharmacies, who have been subjected to a 30% funding cut since 2015, are grappling with.

We are calling for:

  1. A sustainable funding model for community pharmacies.
  2. A full review of the medicines supply market, and short-term relief measures.
  3. Investment in community pharmacy’s clinical future.
  4. A plan to safeguard the pharmacy workforce.

Our upcoming drop-in Parliamentary event on March 12th will give MPs a chance to hear more about Pharmacy First, while also allowing us – alongside AIM, CCA, NPA and RPS – to brief them on the critical pressures facing the sector.

If you would like to invite your MP to attend this event, please email comms.team@cpe.org.uk

Get involved

The Health Committee is inviting any pharmacy professionals who wish to participate directly in its Pharmacy Inquiry to a special event in Westminster on Tuesday 5th March (16.00 – 17.30).

This will be an informal, private discussion with members of the Committee around your daily work, what you want your role to look like in the future and what support you think the Government should be giving to the pharmacy sector. An anonymised summary of the session will be used to inform the Committee’s final report.

Anyone wishing to attend is asked to express their interest by sending your details (including pharmacy role and membership of any pharmacy organisations) to selcomengagement@parliament.uk by Friday 23rd February.

Find out more about the Pharmacy Inquiry.

Discover how we are working to improve the outlook for community pharmacy at an event near you.

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