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How to win friends and influence Treasury


How to win friends and influence Treasury

A new political cycle brings renewed energy and enthusiasm to secure the changes the sector needs, says Company Chemists’ Association chief executive Malcolm Harrison

As you read this, a new government is taking power. A new political cycle presents new opportunities to engage, influence, and push for change. It also acts as a useful counterpoint to review progress over the past few years. During the election campaign, it was great to see community pharmacy feature in each of the main political parties’ manifestos.

It was even more pleasing to see a cross-party consensus on the opportunity to expand provision through community pharmacy – whether by expanding Pharmacy First or creating what Labour describes as a ‘Community Pharmacist Prescribing Service’.

The truth is that these commitments have come about due to the painstaking advocacy work done by the CCA and others. In this column, I hope to lift the lid on some of the work the CCA has been doing over the past 18 months and our priorities for the coming years.

Much of our recent influencing work can be charted back to our 2022 Prospectus – A future for community pharmacy in England. This set out how pharmacies could free up more than 42 million GP appointments a year.

Central to this was a fully-funded Pharmacy First service in England (freeing up more than 30m appointments annually), expanded blood pressure and contraception services, and a greater role in vaccination programmes.

It was satisfying to see three out of four of those proposals included in the May 2023 Delivery Plan for Recovering Primary Care Access. During 2022 and 2023, the CCA showcased those proposals to ministers, officials, shadow and opposition spokespeople and parliamentarians. Alongside the work of our peers, we fundamentally believe this helped secure the political ‘buy-in’ for the Pharmacy First service in England.

In recent years, we have tried to place an even greater focus on data collection and analysis to inform evidence-based proposals. We have developed a strong pipeline of data sources that we can tap into when we need to evidence our arguments and proposals. We’ve published several papers that analyse the available data, to further highlight the crisis the sector faces in England. That includes the £67,000 annual funding shortfall per pharmacy in England, the 3,000 community pharmacist shortfall, the more than 1,000 closures, and threat posed by ‘pseudo’ DSPs.

Each of these has been fundamental to the Health and Social Care Committee inquiry, to which I gave evidence in November 2023, and whose report made it clear that the status quo was untenable.

This is just a sprinkling of the work the CCA undertakes; there is so much more happening under the surface. Our members are central to all of this.

Many will be familiar with the Patient Safety Group, which the CCA hosts and is funded in 2024 by our partner, the NPA. The CCA operates a raft of similar working groups, bringing together our members’ unique skills and experience on topics including pharmacy contract evolution, workforce, professional practice and external relations.

The CCA’s strength lies in its ability to draw upon members’ thinking and frontline experience to develop policy positions. When we speak, we speak fully informed by the views of, and with the full weight of, our members.

We’ve been integral to several initiatives that have helped change the way the profession works and is regarded. We helped make the case for community pharmacy to play a bigger role in the Covid-19 vaccination programme and later, secured changes to ensure it was easier to onboard new pharmacy providers.

On digital, we’ve ensured a single prescribing system for Independent Prescribing pathfinders across England; we’ve challenged the implementation of Shared Care Records when not fit for purpose, and helped secure community pharmacy’s integration through GP Connect. We have also been integral to several cross-sector initiatives. We paved the way for changes to supervision by bringing together fellow trade associations, and later the professional bodies, before stepping away to allow for the Supervision Practice Group to be created.

On workforce, we fund and host the cross-sector Workforce Development Group. Moreover, we’ve also co-funded the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pharmacy since it began in 1999.

The new political cycle will see us face the ongoing challenges of funding and workforce with the same vigour. We will continue to demonstrate the damaging impact that underfunding and ill-thought-out policies like ARRS are having on the sector. We are in a hurry to promote Pharmacy First to secure funding beyond March 2025.

Our thinking on how Pharmacy First could be expanded has already begun. It’s only with forward thinking like this that we as a sector can move forward. We’ll be analysing the workforce pipeline to ensure the sector has the workforce it needs to take on the more clinical future we all envisage.

We will be pushing for the integration of the National Booking System into pharmacy systems, and outlining the next steps in the digital journey that community pharmacy must take. Again, this is just a portion of the work the CCA and its members are undertaking day in, day out.

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