Following the Sigma Conference 2024, The Pharmacist sat down with Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) to discuss how primary care can work together.

How do you think AIMp members are approaching the idea of working collaboratively, with the different professions – including GPs?

We've always felt this was the right strategy moving forward. AIMp has been a big advocate of working with other healthcare professionals.

In my presentation at the conference I highlighted that primary care only receives around 8% of the entire NHS budget, and if we want to be heard as primary care, together, we have got to work together with other professions within primary care.

Do you have an idea of what that could look like practically?

We need to focus on key points: what benefits all of us, with patients at the centre of it.

I think there are loads of commonalities. Primary care sectors feel that they have a shortfall in their funding. And one of the biggest commonalities is that we can all contribute in terms of reducing the burden on secondary care. We know that one pound spent in primary care saves £2 in secondary care.

Everyone can work together as primary care, and I think that that will have a much more impactful voice to the decision makers than if all of us shout separately.

Historically, there’s been an element of competition between different primary care providers. How do you think that could be tackled?

I think there will always be areas where as different sectors we need to look out for how we can use the resources to better care for patients.

For example, in community pharmacy, what we [AIMp] are asking is a doubling of the current global sum.

That's the only way for the sector to be able to carry out what it needs to be carrying out in order to free up GP time, and in order to deliver what NHS England had set out in their strategy.

However, I think we have a lot in common [across primary care providers] in terms of what we need to be doing to be getting better outcomes for primary care.

If all the sectors are asking for more budget, how can we convince government? Do you think it’s likely that everyone will get what they want?

[Primary care getting] 8% of the entire NHS funding is miserable, awful, and shows that the system is not fit for purpose.

We are not asking the government and the officials to come up with some sort of a magic money tree. What we are asking is that the funds that already exists within the NHS need to be spent on areas where the taxpayers get most benefits from.

We're asking; dentists are asking; GPs are asking… because we deserve it.

And we have shown that there will be value to the taxpayer and to the NHS if [decision makers] did that.

So you're calling for a rethink of how the NHS budget is structured?

I have been calling [for this] for such a long time. There is money within the NHS, where it's going is a different story. We need to make sure that that money is channelled through to the places where it's making the most impact for the taxpayer and for patient care.

Primary care has demonstrated that it can do that; pharmacy has demonstrated that it can do that - the flu vaccination service, Covid vaccination service, hypertension service – everything that we've been given to do, we've delivered it to the best of our ability.

What more does anyone need to see?

Yes, we will be all asking for the relevant funding for our sectors. And we should be all asking that the miserable primary care budget is improved.

We should ditch the language, right at the onset of negotiations, that we may get an imposition.

And we should have a strategy of what is acceptable, what’s not acceptable, and what the red lines are. And those red lines should have been discussed and agreed with pharmacy contractors, so that we are united behind them, and [in] what we’re prepared to do.

Previously, you said that AIMp wouldn't support industrial action from the sector. Is that still the case?

I'm a pharmacist, and [as a pharmacist] you never want harm to come to the patient.

I'm not calling for industrial action or anything like that. What I'm calling for is for the sector coming together, and thinking about what would be the best way forward.

I’ve heard the sector talking about unity so many times. So far, it's just been words. Unity needs to be about actions. And this is the type of action that we need: everyone coming together, agreeing on something and sticking to it.

Read more from speakers at the Sigma Conference 2024.