The Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) has called for the next government to ‘prioritise patient safety around medicines’ and 'appropriately regulate' rapid advances in AI and online healthcare provision.

And it said that pharmacy funding should be ringfenced for staffing to help address workplace pressures and burnout.

In a manifesto launched this week, the PDA said the incoming government needed to 'appropriately regulate rapidly emerging AI and online healthcare provision.'

This comes as the national medical director at NHS England last week expressed alarm at reports of weight loss medication being used inappropriately, after reports emerged of ineligible patients obtaining the drug via online pharmacies.

The PDA also highlighted the need to ‘ensure the appropriate care is delivered at the right time and place by an appropriately trained healthcare professional’.

It asked the government to ‘recognise pharmacists' clinical knowledge and expertise in medicines’ by drawing on pharmacists’ unique clinical skills to:

  • Deliver acute care;
  • Support people living with long-term conditions;
  • Provide advice and treatment for common conditions;
  • Improve population health; and
  • Ensure that patients are not harmed by the effects of over-prescribing.

It also called on the next government to ‘provide pharmacists with the digital infrastructure to integrate with other healthcare settings and deliver patient-centric care’.

And it said protected learning time for pharmacists and access to the Learning Support Fund for pharmacist undergraduates was also needed to bring pharmacy on par with other healthcare professions.

According to then health minister Andrew Stephenson, NHS England has previously acknowledged that funding to support students with the costs of clinical placements is ‘inconsistently paid’.

The PDA also told The Pharmacist it wanted the government to engage with the pharmacist workforce, as well as pharmacy employers.

The PDA also called for prescription charges in England to be abolished as they are in other UK nations.

This comes as Tase Oputu, England Board chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and other representatives of Prescription Charges Coalition (PCC) members have signed an open letter asking party leaders to commit to scrapping prescription charges in England for all long-term conditions.

In particular, the letter highlights the ‘outdated’ exemption list that leaves many patients with conditions like Parkinson’s, cystic fibrosis and HIV paying for essential medicines.

Commenting on the letter, signed last week (13 June), Ms Oputu said: ‘Nobody should face a financial barrier to accessing the medicines they need. Prescription charges are a stealth tax on health and every day pharmacists are asked by patients who are unable to afford all the items in their prescription which ones they could "do without".

‘If you can’t afford your medicines, your condition can worsen which leads to poor health, lost productivity and increases the risk of hospital admission, piling pressure on the NHS.

‘As the general election approaches, I hope that political parties can commit to scrapping this complex and unjust system.’