An ITV documentary set to air this evening is hoped to bring home to the general public the struggles faced by community pharmacies.

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), told The Pharmacist that she didn’t think that the general public were fully aware of the extent of the issues faced by community pharmacies – from a shortage of core funding to a ‘crazy’ price concession system.

‘There’s been a lot of talk around other parts of the sector [such as] doctors, junior doctors and dentists, but this [community pharmacy] sector is at a junction. And [it] has been beavering away on the front line delivering for patient care, but at the same time has not been treated the way you should be treated by those in the position of power,’ she said.

‘We’re hoping that this programme will bring that to light, that the general public would know that their local pharmacies are going through hell at the moment,’ she added.

And she said that she hoped the documentary could do for the pharmacy sector what a recent ITV drama did to shed light on the Post Office Horizon scandal.

The four-part drama Mr Bates vs the Post Office promoted legislative action to exonerate post office staff wrongly prosecuted for theft within days of the programme being broadcast, following more than a decade of campaigners raising the issue.

ITV did a good job on shedding the light on the post office issues which otherwise people had forgotten about. And this is exactly the same situation,’ Dr Hannbeck told The Pharmacist.

‘We’ve got a sector that so many patients care about, that provides accessibility to care and is the front door to the NHS [and is] being treated in this way.

‘The public needs to know this. The public needs to know that this loved sector, that has gone over and beyond continuously, is being treated in this way,’ she said.

The episode of the ‘Tonight’ programme, which airs this evening on ITV1 at 8:30pm, will feature community pharmacists sharing their day-to-day experiences with investigative journalist Paul Brand.

It will cover issues including medicines and reimbursement costs, as well as the impact of pharmacies having to cut additional services such as free delivery and Dossett box packing.

A preview clip shared at the end of last week’s programme showcases contractor Ian Strachan describing medicines costs as ‘a nightmare’, highlighting the discrepancy between the cost of drugs to his pharmacy and the Drug Tariff reimbursement rate.

The programme surveyed 980 pharmacy workers across the country.

Nearly nine in 10 (89%) contractors surveyed for the programme said that they had experienced months of dispensing at a loss, while 96% said they were concerned that their pharmacies were not financially viable.

And Tonight found that 86% of pharmacy workers surveyed said they were unable to fulfil a prescription on a daily basis.

The broadcaster described the report as an insight into ‘a possible pharmacy crisis’, citing estimates of an average of eight pharmacy closures each week and total pharmacy numbers being at their lowest since 2015.

Pharmacists and leaders from across the sector, including AIMp, NPA, the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) and Community Pharmacy England (CPE) have been interviewed for the programme.

And it will feature patients sharing how the pressures on the community pharmacy sector are affecting them – from medication shortages to reduced services.

Stephen Fishwick, head of communications at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) emphasised the importance of television in helping to sway public and political opinion.

And Zoe Long, CPE director of communications, corporate and public affairs, told The Pharmacist that the negotiator hoped the programme would accurately reflect ‘the extremely tough situation pharmacy businesses and teams are in’, helping to raise awareness of ‘critical issues’ faced by the sector.

And Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the CCA highlighted the timing of the broadcast, coming ahead of the launch of Pharmacy First in England.

‘We hope the programme will unequivocally demonstrate the need to properly fund pharmacies so they can deliver more of the NHS care that patients need,’ he said.