Whatever happens, community pharmacy has done itself proud, says Noel Wicks

Is it just me or does it look like pharmacy is in for another early Christmas surprise from the Department of Health? The recent letter outlining its invitation to PSNC to “conclude negotiations” by the end of September, with implementation from 1 December, certainly seems to suggest as much.

In the letter, the DH acknowledged the additional information provided during the interim period. This includes research from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on “the value of community pharmacy” and Pharmacy Voice’s joint report with PSNC. There have also been many other supporting activities going on, not least the NPA’s campaign to “support your local pharmacy” that has generated a petition with signatures running into the millions.

The whole of community pharmacy has really come together in the 10 months since receiving the first notice regarding the funding cuts. It’s been successful in presenting the value of what community pharmacy does and the difference it makes to people’s lives every single day.

This couldn’t have been done without the support of thousands of pharmacy teams across the country and the millions of patients who care about their local pharmacy.

Community pharmacy has backed this up with pharmacy- and pharmacist-based solutions for the NHS’s problems (a model of care that is set to collapse). Indeed, the Centre for Workforce Intelligence has identified that pharmacists – unlike GPs and nurses – is a workforce supply forecast to exceed demand and it is predicted that by 2040 there could be an excess of 19,000 pharmacists. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that these extra pharmacists could be just the shot in the arm the NHS needs to survive in the coming years.

Of course, the profession’s campaigns haven’t just been focused on funding cuts: they’ve been about giving community pharmacy the chance to step up to help secure the future of the NHS. This is something we should be proud of, whatever happens as a result of the current “negotiations”.

Community pharmacy and its representative organisations have not quietly acquiesced, and nor have they whined from the sidelines about “times being tough”, “costs rising” and the plethora of other challenges we face each day. Instead, they have led a united campaign that has put community pharmacy high up on the political agenda – not just for now, but for years to come. Whatever the result of this particular battle, it feels that we are now a mobilised force that will be taken increasingly seriously by the politicians going forward. This is particularly relevant, because by the looks of things, they are going to need our profession’s help.

So, while one battle draws to a close, the overall fight for community pharmacy continues. Once again, we seem set to head into a new year beset with challenges and difficult decisions. However, remember that, as Churchill once said: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

So, here’s hoping we all have the bucket loads of courage we need to keep on continuing.

It feels that we are now a mobilised force that will be taken increasingly seriously by the politicians


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