Community pharmacy leaders have highlighted the crucial role of the sector in the Labour government's primary care plans, but said that expanded services can only be delivered with sustainable funding for the network.

This comes as the Labour Party is set to form the next Government following a landslide victory in yesterday’s general election.

Meanwhile, the party’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting narrowly held on to his parliamentary seat, with an independent candidate standing on a pro-Gaza platform just 500 votes behind.

Harnessing community pharmacy will be ‘crucial’ to achieving Labour’s ‘compelling vision for primary care reform’, Malcolm Harrison, the chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) has said.

The party has pledged to move more care into the community, boost general practice and focus on prevention.

And Mr Harrison said ‘harnessing community pharmacy’ was ‘crucial’ to each of these tenets.

Greater investment in the sector would be needed ‘if community pharmacies are to play an even bigger role in helping the NHS to overcome the backlog in primary care’, he added.

‘We’ve made no secret of the pressures community pharmacies face and how these are impacting patients. The sector needs additional funding to halt the worrying trend of closures and to ensure patient access to medicines is maintained.’

Wes Streeting ‘speaks warmly’ about community pharmacy

Meanwhile, Paul Rees, chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), said the association was ‘excited to work with the new government to show how a properly funded pharmacy network can cut GP and hospital waiting times and dramatically improve the nation’s health’.

‘We have left the Labour team in no doubt that pharmacies are suffering from a decade of cuts. Every time we have met Wes Streeting – in all likelihood the next health secretary – he has spoken warmly about community pharmacies and last week he backed the NPA’s national day of action against pharmacy underfunding, saying that pharmacists across England have been “driven to desperation”.

‘He talked about the scale of closures and added: “Labour wants to reverse this shocking trend and put pharmacies at the forefront of our health service”. Now he has to deliver - action is needed immediately to stop the pharmacy closures that are leaving many patients without convenient care close to home,’ Mr Rees added.

He also said the NPA had been speaking to Labour about its vision for a clinical future for pharmacists.

And it would be keeping up dialogue on medicines shortages ‘which have become a distressing part of everyday life for patients and pharmacy teams in all parts of the UK.’

Expanded role can only happen with sustainable network

Janet Morrison, chief executive of Community Pharmacy England (CPE), said the negotiator was ‘pleased to see the Labour party making commitments to expand the role of community pharmacy teams’.

But she said CPE would be underlining to ministers that this could only ‘if pharmacies are sustainable’.

‘We look forward to early discussions on this.’

She also revealed that the 2024/25 community pharmacy contract would be one of the government’s ‘first tasks’. but could still take ‘some weeks’.

CPE also said that 'a number of' the new MPs had previously expressed support for community pharmacy.

'This means the new Parliament will be comprised of a number of MPs who are already sympathetic to the need for investment and support for pharmacies – we will be working urgently to build on this,' it added in an email sent today.

Government urged to act on HSCC report

Both CPE and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society congratulated two pharmacists elected to parliament: community pharmacist Sadik Al-Hassan and Taiwo Owatemi, former Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Pharmacy.

Claire Anderson, RPS president, said the new government must work to enhance patient care ‘in a health service under continued pressure’.

‘Pharmacists will be central to reducing health inequalities, managing the growing cost of long-term conditions, and delivering best value from medicines for patients and the NHS.

‘As pharmacists are asked to do more, this must be backed by sustainable funding, and I look forward to working with the Government on how to make the best use of pharmacists’ skills to benefit patients, including through the growing number of pharmacist prescribers,’ she added.

And she urged the government to act on the recent recommendations of the Health and Social Care Select Committee (HSCC)’s report on pharmacy.

Community pharmacy deficit 'likely to be in the billions'

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Independent Pharmacy Association (IPA) also congratulated 'all the new MPs for taking the steps to become parliamentarians', saying the IPA looked forward to working with them.

'Community pharmacies are pillars of their communities and wherever you look to improve population health productivity and growth community pharmacy is at the heart of those solutions.

'Investing in our sector to save taxpayers’ investment and adding efficiencies to the system will remain the centre piece of IPA’s strategy to influence government thinking and choices in health policy.

'We must never forget that deficit is no longer £1.2 billion but it is now likely to be in the billions. As each month passes pharmacy owners become deeper in debt and further away from being a viable solution to the challenges of the NHS. This must change urgently.'