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PDA responds to announcement around delivering improved access to primary care

As part of the plan to support primary care, the government and NHS have pledged an investment of £645m over the next two years.

Tue 9th May 2023 The PDA

This investment will support a community pharmacy common conditions service, enabling community pharmacists to use medicines only previously available to GPs, such as antibiotics and antivirals to treat patients with conditions such as sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles, and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women. This new service will also encourage community pharmacists to support more NHS Hypertension case finding and contraception services.

The PDA cautiously welcomes today’s announcement of funding to community pharmacies to support the provision of these new services, in addition to the wide range of services already offered. Recognising the valuable role of pharmacists as part of the primary care workforce is critical to more seamless and accessible care for patients.

With a promised £645m investment in community pharmacies over the next two years, this represents a 12% uplift in funding.

Community pharmacists have proven their worth time and time again, particularly during the pandemic when they enabled ongoing medicines supply and remained accessible to patients. However, a severe lack of investment in staffing, premises, and protected training time has led many to leave the community pharmacy sector and choose to practice in other parts of the NHS. Others, to accommodate for the current levels of stress in the community pharmacy workplace, have decided to reduce their number of working days. The PDA hopes that the increase in funding to deliver the new services will translate into investment in appropriate staffing levels, improved working environments, and appropriate training with protected learning time to attract pharmacists back into community pharmacy and ensure sustainably high-quality services that patients expect.

Alison Jones, Director of Policy at the PDA said, “We welcome the injection of funding into the community pharmacy sector, and support the recognition that pharmacists have a key role to play in delivering frontline patient care.

One of the key commitments being made by the NHS in this initiative is that community pharmacists will now get access to patient records, and we believe that this will be a significant game-changer, enabling community pharmacists to make a dynamic and beneficial difference to the lives of patients. However, judging by the feedback that we have been getting from our members, the current extraordinarily high levels of workload and burnout in community pharmacy mean that alongside these plans, serious consideration must now additionally be given to having more than one pharmacist being able to work in the pharmacy if this NHS vision is to be delivered.

Should such a consideration be made, it could go a long way in addressing some of these issues and support the return of many highly qualified and experienced pharmacists to the community sector. Community pharmacy could also become more attractive to newly qualified pharmacists, with the professional incentive for them of working in a more patient-facing, collegiate, and professionally fulfilling structure delivering an increased portfolio of services whilst keeping patient safety at the forefront.

Importantly, to deliver the intended increased levels of access to primary care as outlined by the government in its plan, it is imperative that there is always a pharmacist on the pharmacy premises to help to manage both the expectations of patients and the wider NHS.”

Alison continued, “The locum workforce is large, and it is critical to the community pharmacy network, however, it is often overlooked when major plans are laid. With such fundamental changes being proposed, the locum workforce must be considered in any training and development opportunities around the expansion of services. We look forward to seeing the detail of the plans and making a full assessment about what the developments mean to all our members.”

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