The Chancellor made no mention of pharmacy in his Budget announcement earlier this week. It’s high time that politicians started taking notice, says The Pharmacist’s editor Beth Kennedy
If I seem a little deflated this week, it’s because I’m tired. Sick and tired of those in power making empty statements about all the wonderful work that pharmacy does, yet conveniently managing to forget about its existence when it really matters.
There are many – too many – examples of this. But the most recent was pharmacy’s notable absence in Wednesday’s Budget. Chancellor Philip Hammond pledged an extra £2.8bn to the NHS, with £335 (rather bafflingly rounded up by £15m to £350m in his address to the Commons) earmarked to help tackle winter pressures this year. Yet no mention was made of how much of this sum would go towards providing care in the community, let alone towards pharmacy.
I’m not exactly surprised by this. After all, pharmacy is snubbed in political announcements with alarming regularity. But this time, I thought things might be different after pharmacy minister Steve Brine replied to a question about future pharmacy funding with a cryptic ‘wait for the Budget’ answer a couple of weeks ago.
So yes, it’s normal for pharmacy to miss out on a mention by politicians. And as we’ve seen with the cuts, the Government is only too happy to slash the sector’s funding with gay abandon. I admit it; my hopes of a little extra cash were perhaps a tad optimistic.
But what with Mr Brine making good on his promise to lay decriminalisation legislation before Parliament, I really thought that politicians might have turned a corner in their thinking towards community pharmacy.
Still, it’s early days and we’re yet to see how NHS England will divvy up the extra funding. I really hope that in the coming weeks, the commissioning body recognises the potential that pharmacy has to relieve pressure on overstretched GP and A&E services and allocates some money to the sector.
With experts predicting that this winter may face the worst health crisis in living memory, pharmacy is surely one of the NHS’s best talismans against unnecessary emergency service attendances.
But in order to live up to this potential, the sector is going to have to see some serious investment. Over to you, NHS England.