Pharmacy leaders join forces to write to the Secretary of State

PSNC and the other community pharmacy national representative bodies, along with the four largest pharmacy chains in England, have jointly written to the Secretary of State for Health, Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP, warning that the sector needs urgent investment.

The letter says that the Government is facing a choice over the future of the country’s 11,000+ community pharmacies, with permanent closures likely and medicines supply at risk if no urgent action is taken.

Community pharmacy has ambitions to help support the wider NHS and patients, including through a fully funded Pharmacy First service, the letter from AIM, CCA, NPA, PSNC, Boots UK, Lloyds Pharmacy, Well, and Phoenix UK, says.

But it warns that the 30% real terms funding cuts that pharmacies have faced over the past seven years have left many businesses in a cashflow crisis. Urgent investment is now needed to help the sector to re-build capacity and sustainability.

If the funding situation is not addressed, the sector is likely to move rapidly towards many permanent closures of pharmacies. The organisations say that once these closures start, they will be hard to stop, as the sector is now so fragile other pharmacies would struggle to pick up the slack.

On the other hand, if the Secretary of State chooses to invest in community pharmacies, they can do much to deliver cost-effective solutions for patients and the NHS more widely.

The joint letter was covered in both the Telegraph and the Times, with PSNC’s CEO, Janet Morrison being in quoted in both articles as saying that “without urgent action, we believe temporary closures of pharmacies will turn into permanent ones and that the next healthcare crisis will be the inability of some patients to access their prescription medicines.”

Read the joint letter to the Secretary of State

Janet Morrison, PSNC Chief Executive, said:

“Many community pharmacies are now struggling to survive: this isn’t acceptable and it could soon have very serious consequences for patients. We have set out this picture to officials and to the pharmacy Minister, and we are pleased to have been able to work with so many others across the sector to give this united message to the Secretary of State. Government now faces a choice about community pharmacy’s future: we and the other signatories to this letter will keep working tirelessly together to ensure they make the right one. We believe that what is right for pharmacies is right for patients and right for the wider NHS.”

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, the Chief Executive of AIM, said:

“It’s essential that the Secretary of State takes our plea seriously. He must act urgently as our sector is coming under so much pressure in all sorts of ways that we simply cannot continue like this. Pharmacies are struggling to keep their heads above the water as they are simply struggling to pay their bills. They are making losses, who can continue to survive if they are making losses? It is not just hospitals and GPs that are under pressure, it’s our pharmacies as well. We have continuously kept our doors open delivering accessible care supporting the NHS; but we are reaching a breaking point. If the Secretary of State and the NHS decision makers want that accessible care to continue to be there for vulnerable patients then they must act with urgency.”

Malcolm Harrison, the Chief Executive of the CCA said:

“Immediate investment will allow community pharmacy to deliver for the NHS. Considering the challenges facing the NHS currently, community pharmacy represents a significant asset to the nation. The sector has the potential to reduce GP waiting times and hospital re-admissions. But the decision now lies with the Secretary of State, to unlock the true potential

of community pharmacies. Not investing in the sector will mean the continued erosion of service, and ultimately the permanent closure of many more community pharmacies, which will add to the already pressurised health system.”

Andrew Lane, NPA Chair, said:

“I am delighted that the national pharmacy bodies in England have come together with the leaders of the largest corporate pharmacy contractors to write to the Secretary of State. Our members have been encouraging those key organisations to work together for the good of the whole sector. We are showing the Health Secretary that we are united in our determination to take the right route – one that unlocks the full potential of community pharmacy and helps support the NHS more widely.”

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