New health and social care secretary, same old story?


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By Léa Legraien
Reporter

11 Jul 2018

It is now well known that community pharmacists are suffering financially from the Government’s funding cuts. With a new health and social care minister, are brighter days ahead them, asks The Pharmacist’s reporter Léa Legraien.

Behold pharmacists – the end of tyranny might be upon you. Or maybe not…

You will be aware by now that Jeremy Hunt has ended his stint as the longest-serving secretary, leaving for greener pastures as foreign secretary.

Ironically, while he constantly praised NHS staff for their ‘hard work into making the NHS so great’ during his time as health and social care secretary, only six of his announcements referred to the positive use of pharmacy.

Now he is gone, can we please turn our attention to pharmacy and open our eyes to how much the sector is genuinely suffering at the moment?

As an optimistic, I should welcome Theresa May’s decision to appoint West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock as health and social care secretary.

After all, this announcement could be the change the sector has desperately been waiting for. Yet, I cannot ignore the fact that Mr Hancock was one of the 305 MPs who voted against the repeal of the cuts made to English community pharmacy in 2016.

Pharmacists have had enough of all the beautifully worded but ultimately meaningless Government’s pledges – which claims to ‘fully appreciates the value’ of community pharmacy’ and wants ‘a closer relationship with the sector’.

The sector does not need to be merely reminded how valuable it is – it already knows it.

What it needs is more actions.

Which means parity with GPs for incentives such as the state-backed general practice indemnity scheme.

Which means decision makers sticking to the original purposes of schemes including the Pharmacy Integration Fund (PhIF) and not diverting some of the money into other services.

Which means more funding into pharmacy services so the sector can keep useful schemes such as smoking cessation rather than closing them down at the cost of the public’s health.

And these are just to name a few.

As a former business minister who has also worked for his family business, Mr Hancock might, nevertheless, be better placed than Mr Hunt to understand the difficulties that independents face.

What is worrying is that if even a petition against the cuts – launched by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) in 2016 – that garnered two millions signatures failed to make the Government bend, then what will?

Only time will tell whether Mr Hancock will be able to transform the healthcare system as a whole and put in place the long overdue measures to properly integrate pharmacy into the wider NHS and recognise its value.

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