All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Pharmacy chair Taiwo Owatemi MP and industry representatives have yesterday (14 March) delivered a letter to prime minister Rishi Sunak calling on him to tackle the sector’s funding and workforce crisis.

The letter, coordinated by the APPG and signed by 50 parliamentarians, called for Mr Sunak to spearhead actions needed to allow pharmacies to help clear NHS backlogs and increase access to primary care.

‘Given the challenges the healthcare system is facing, if there was ever a time to empower and fund our pharmacies to deliver more for our patients it is now. However, despite its huge potential, pharmacy is facing significant workforce challenges and a funding crisis,’ the letter said.

The letter to the PM said there was a ‘tremendous opportunity’ for pharmacies to do even more to support medicine optimisation, better primary care, prevention and managing long-term conditions, for example through the Pharmacy First service that sector leaders have called on the government to fund.

It quoted the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) analysis of NHS data, which found that between 2015 and 2022, 808 pharmacies closed in England, while only 138 new pharmacies opened – a net loss of 670. Another study has warned that several thousand English community pharmacies are likely to close during the next few years.

Meanwhile, Health Education England figures from last year found that vacancy rates for community pharmacists had doubled in five years.

‘It is vital pharmacies are included in any long-term workforce plan and given a key role in Integrated Care System decision-making. Without urgent action, including a review of the way pharmacies are funded, the country will fail to benefit from the potential of this vital healthcare sector,’ the letter concluded.

The APPG attached the recommendations of its Future of Pharmacy manifesto to its letter to the PM, urging him to consider actions including further funding for a national pharmacy minor ailments walk-in service, independent prescribing (IP) training for all existing pharmacists, and clinical services.

The recommendations in the manifesto were based on evidence gathered from frontline pharmacists, GPs, professional bodies, patients and healthcare experts.

The APPG report followed the launch of the Save Our Pharmacies campaign by four leading national pharmacy bodies calling for fair NHS funding for pharmacies in England.

Leaders from across the pharmacy sector previously wrote to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to ask him to address pharmacy’s funding crisis in December.