Health expenditure in England has increased since 2015, while community pharmacy funding has dropped, according to figures shared by Professor David Taylor at the 2023 Sigma Conference.

Health spending has increased while pharmacy funding stagnates

Professor Taylor, whose report last year described the flat funding deal as an ‘existential threat’ to the sector, said that community pharmacy as a sector faced a choice: to defend the status quo, to reduce costs as much as possible, to enhance clinical service provision and collaboration with general practice, or to equip patients to manage their own health.

He said that progress towards clinical pharmacy in community settings has been ‘disappointing, slow, and in some respects has been a scandal’ – for instance, on patient record sharing.

He told delegates at the Sigma Conference that the sector needed ‘less conflict’ and more focus on patient interest and better career paths for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.

‘If your aim becomes cost saving you will certainly not serve the consumers as well’, he said.

While he said there was a place for efficiencies, ‘if you’re always focused on cost control as the core aim, then you’re likely to have poor quality care’.

He also suggested that community pharmacy and general practice could move from competition to ‘constructive evolution’ to deliver primary care.

He also said that healthcare providers shouldn’t underestimate the value of listening to what their patients want.

In fact, he said that community pharmacy could take the opportunity to provide the type of care that patients were looking for.

For instance, he said that many patients felt like they were ‘missing out’ with an increase in GP appointments being delivered via telephone or through centralised hubs. He said that although there has been an increase in GP practice closures, this did not necessarily mean that there were fewer GPs but that the model of care was changing.

Professor Taylor suggested that this could be an opportunity for community pharmacy to provide more personalised care if it moved in the direction of personalised services.