Pharmacists have been waiting for nearly a year to hear of their fate. I don’t know of many professions that would be forced to wait for months on end to hear whether they’re about to see a massive 12% cut to their funding. There may have been a temporary reprieve in September with the announcement that the cuts would be delayed, but that only added insult to injury when a few days later it was announced that they were back on the cards.
But this is not just about the funding cuts. There is also uncertainty about what the Government could throw at the sector next. We all know that pharmacy is not as valued as other NHS professions (GPs are due to receive a £2.4bn cash boost) and shouts for further investment continue to be ignored. Yes, the national flu vaccination service in England was welcome, but pharmacists have spent years stressing that they’re the ‘untapped resource’ that can relieve the strain on the rest of the NHS. I don’t like using the phrase ‘ideally placed’ but it does reinforce that pharmacists could deliver more front-line primary care, if they had the investment. So why is no one listening?
This year has at least seen the profession shout a little louder. Probably for the first time in history, the pharmacy groups have joined forces. The Community Pharmacy Forward View sets out
a vital vision, and the NPA’s petition against the cuts was the largest ever healthcare petition delivered to 10 Downing Street with 2.2 million signatures from the public. Furthermore, the announcement last week that pharmacists will be able to dispense urgent medication to patients with a repeat prescription, relieving pressure on out-of-hours GPs, perhaps suggests the sector’s value is starting to catch on. But how can the sector really get heard?
With a new publisher and a new team behind it, The Pharmacist has relaunched and we’re promising to be the new voice of independent pharmacists. We’re not guaranteeing a revolution, but we hope to represent your views, help fight your corner and present the strongest possible case for pharmacy to receive the recognition it deserves. We want to start a positive debate about the future of pharmacy and provide leadership at a time of crisis. I look forward to hearing your views and taking this vital work forward.