Pharmacy teams are being urged to spread the word about what community pharmacy can do in the run-up to the country’s General Election in May. Pharmacy organisations Pharmacy Voice, PSNC, NPA and IPF worked together to produce a Manifesto for Community Pharmacy that includes five key points, including the benefits of thinking pharmacy first and pharmacy’s role in supporting people with long term conditions to get the most out of their medicines.
MPs and political candidates from other parties are being urged to support the development of community pharmacy by signing up to the five pledges.
As well as supporting national activity to promote pharmacy, grassroots pharmacists and pharmacy teams will be key to communicating the messages, says Pharmacy Voice.
APPG’s Kevin Barron MP has welcomed the manifesto.
Pharmacy Voice chairman Rob Darracott said that while the NHS 5 Year Forward View included positive messages for pharmacy, commitment was needed ‘to make some of those things happen’. ‘We need to be clear and concise about what we can do,’ he says. The manifesto should be used ‘to put the case for pharmacy wherever that case can be made. I’m delighted that we’re working together on this initiative.’
Sue Sharpe of PSNC welcomes the manifesto as ‘a vehicle to try to get an awareness of just what pharmacy can do.’ She points particularly to the role pharmacy has in supporting self care.
Clare Ward, of the Independent Pharmacy Federation, an ex-MP herself, suggests that pharmacists could use the manifesto as part of communicating to local MPs just how many people – their constituents – that they see on a regular basis. MPs should see the strong links that pharmacy teams have with their communities and their local influence, she says. It is suggested that the manifesto has to be led by pharmacists and used as a campaigning tool over the next few months.
‘Tell your local MP about the people you see in your pharmacy, and the ambitions you have to develop your services. Also tell the public about those ambitions. This is a great opportunity to engage at a local level. Let’s make this manifesto work for pharmacy.’
She says that she is reminded of a past campaign by pharmacy around an OFT ruling, that resulted in a flood of letters and cards being posted by pharmacy teams to MPs. ‘It reminds me of how influential pharmacy can be’, she says, but also warns that pharmacy ‘often doesn’t make the most of itself’.
Devon MP Oliver Colvile, and APPG vice chair, says that for every letter he receives from local constituents, ‘I think that there’s probably 20 others who haven’t written’. Picking up on what matters to the local community is important for an MP, particularly in an election year, he says.
Ian Strachan of the NPA says that the organisation would work with members in the New Year to help communicate the messages.
Commissioning groups and GPs are also key targets for positive messages about community pharmacy, the organisations says. All agree that relationships between GPs and community pharmacy need to develop further. Ms Sharpe suggests that ‘A great next step would be having that relationship between community pharmacy and GPs, where the pharmacy can fast-track into general practice if needed. To me, that would be a great enabler.’ Strong contractor engagement behind the manifesto will be key to the success of the campaign, says Mr Strachan.