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Sunak warned not to expand Pharmacy First without increase in funding

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Sunak warned not to expand Pharmacy First without increase in funding

Pharmacy bodies have warned Rishi Sunak his pre-general election pledge to give pharmacies a greater role in the NHS by expanding Pharmacy First will force more of them to close if the government does not alleviate the pressure by increasing their funding.

Cautiously welcoming the prime minister’s promise to add to the seven conditions under Pharmacy First by including chest infections and acne, which the Conservatives said will free up 20 million GP appointments, the National Pharmacy Association and Company Chemists’ Association said pharmacies need more support if they are to provide more services.

NPA chief executive Paul Rees insisted the government needed “to fund pharmacies adequately, otherwise the pharmacy network that forms the backbone of the NHS will be irreparably damaged.”

Suggesting it was “good news” that Sunak saw “a greater role for pharmacies,” Rees warned: “The fact is that community pharmacies are chronically underfunded and currently even have to subsidise basic NHS medication because they are not even funded properly for the medicines they dispense.

“Hundreds of pharmacies have closed and are currently being forced out of business at the rate of 10 a week. Those that remain open are only just clinging on.”

The Conservatives also said they wanted to expand the pharmacy contraception service so pharmacies can offer contraceptive patches and injections.

CCA chief executive Malcolm Harrison said he was “delighted the Conservatives agree with our calls for expanding Pharmacy First” but warned getting underfunded and stretched pharmacies to provide more services risked further pharmacy closures.

“Expanding the scale and scope of the service is a no-brainer that will free up GP capacity and boost patient access to primary care. However, core funding for community pharmacy has been cut by 30 per cent in real-terms since 2015 and since then almost 1,200 pharmacies have closed,” he said.

“The foundations upon which the community pharmacy sector, and the Pharmacy First service, sit urgently need fixing. Driving more and more workload through pharmacies only makes sense if historic underfunding of the sector is rectified.”

Numark chairman Harry McQuillan said Pharmacy First must be "adequately funded along with the core contract which underpins service provision."

He added: "Pharmacy First is far more than freeing up GP time, it is about improving patient access to appropriate professional healthcare support and advice."



Image: Rishi Sunak (


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