Thérèse Coffey has said that she is ‘opening up more prescription capability and services to pharmacists’, in a speech at the Conservative party conference yesterday.

However, the health secretary has been criticised for failing to understand and advocate for the role of pharmacy teams.

Her ‘Plan for Patients’ package of measures set out on 22 September made little mention of the role of pharmacy despite calls for pharmacy to play a bigger role in the delivery of clinical services.

And in her speech at the Conservative conference, she mentioned pharmacy once. She said: ‘I am opening up more prescription capability and services to pharmacists.’

This comes as NHS England has said it is embarking on a pathfinder pilot programme to work out the details of how independent prescribing will work in community pharmacy.

Dr Coffey’s speech mostly focused on the role of GPs and dentists, as well as ambulance response times and community care.

She said: ‘Let’s be honest – while most patients receiving care in our NHS have a good experience, too many do not.

‘Whether it’s the 8am scramble to see a GP, or the long waits to get tests or treatment, or the struggle to see an NHS dentist at all.’

And Dr Coffey said that she wants to be ‘honest’ about the ‘scale of the challenge ahead of us’, saying the Government must ‘be prepared to hold the NHS to account’.

In the speech, she also set out that:

  • She will make it easier for GPs registered outside England to register to practise in the country
  • She wants to improve capacity in the community so that people can be cared for ‘at home’ rather than staying in hospital ‘unnecessarily’
  • The Government will spend £173bn on health and social care in England this year

And she claimed that her plan for patients, announced last month, will reduce bureaucracy and ‘improve performance’ in the NHS.

Commenting on the plan today on Twitter, Thorrun Govind, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in England, said Dr Coffey should speak to her predecessors, saying that Sajid Javid ‘understood the role of pharmacy teams.’

The arrangements for years four and five of the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) were published last month alongside Our Plan for Patients. They included new clinical services for pharmacies such as a new Pharmacy Contraception Service.

PSNC chief executive Janet Morrison raised concerns about whether pharmacies would be able to deliver the vision set out for them.

Last week at the Labour party conference, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting claimed that ‘we don’t focus nearly enough on prevention, early intervention and care in the community, saying that the next Labour government would agree a 10-year plan for the NHS to ‘shift the focus of healthcare out of the hospital and into the community.’

He said that this would centre around district nurses and health visitors, and that Labour would ‘bring back the family doctor’.

‘And the values that underpin the NHS – a publicly funded public service, free at the point of use – aren’t just Labour’s values, they are Britain’s values, too,’ he added.

He also claimed that ‘without a workforce plan, the Conservatives have no plan for the NHS.’

A version of this article originally appeared on our sister publication, Pulse.