The Labour Party has committed to expand the role of community pharmacy beyond what is proposed by the current government, in its ‘mission to build an NHS fit for the future’, which was launched yesterday.

In a speech at the Progressive Britain Conference yesterday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer pledged to prioritise prevention, local healthcare and patient choice.

An accompanying paper revealed more details on how the party proposes to achieve those aims, including an expanded role for community pharmacy.

‘Whilst the Government has announced some sticking plaster proposals in this area, we will go further, accelerating the roll out of independent prescribing to establish a Community Pharmacist Prescribing Service covering a broad range of common conditions’, the paper reads.

The Labour party also committed to ‘cut unnecessary red tape to allow pharmacy technicians to step up to some roles’ and support the delivery of clinical services with ‘greater digital interoperability’.

Pharmacists would be tasked with supporting GPs in the management of long-term conditions like hypertension and COPD and tackling overprescribing, Labour said.

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), welcomed the additional detail on the opposition party’s plans.

‘Independent prescribing is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for change’, he said.

Mr Harrison said that under current plans it would take ‘far too long’ to achieve the CCA’s ambition of 95% of community pharmacists trained as independent prescribers, from just 5% at present.

But he said that with ‘ambitious commissioning and an expanded training programme’, community pharmacy could ‘transform urgent care, public health, and long-term condition management across primary care’.

He welcomed any potential efforts to ‘cut red tape and harness the full capacity of pharmacy teams’.

Other pharmacy leaders also welcomed the Labour Party’s announcement of its vision for healthcare.

Paul Day, director of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA), said that the PDA would work with ministers and opposition from all political parties across each of the devolved nations.

‘We want to help them create a sustainable NHS that listens to the views of pharmacists in order to deliver a service that makes best use of their skills and expertise to do the best for patients and the workforce,’ he said.

He added that it was ‘welcome to see those that the opinion polls currently say are most likely to form the next Westminster government beginning to explain their intentions’.

Janet Morrison, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), said that PSNC was ‘encouraged that there now appears to be a consensus across all parties of the greater role that community pharmacies can play in primary care’.

And she said that PSNC was ‘engaging parliamentarians from all political parties to impress upon them the need for urgent action to ensure community pharmacies have the funding they require to remain open to help their patients’.

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), said that Labour’s idea of bringing providers of care closer to the communities they serve was a ‘great idea’, and that community pharmacy would be a key enabler to realising this vision.

‘The trust, convenience and, in a nutshell accessibility, that our sector enjoys was made for addressing many of the challenges Labour has identified’, she added.

She asked Labour to make a commitment to stop the Additional Roles Recruitment Scheme (ARRS), which she said had ‘caused a big lack of playing field for community pharmacies resulting in a workforce crisis that our sector has not seen before at a great cost to the tax payer’.

And she said that community pharmacies were being asked to ‘do more for less’ and deliver services without joined up IT systems, timely engagement or planning, and which were poorly costed and came with ‘too much NHS red tape’.

Dr Hannbeck called on the opposition party to ‘help change the current top-down management culture and blocks within NHS leadership’.

James Davies, director for England at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), also emphasised the importance of community pharmacies in realising Labour’s ambitions of enhancing patient access to care, reducing health inequalities and preventing ill-health.

But he said that ‘none of this will happen without support for our workforce, training new pharmacists, improving retention and helping to upskill existing staff’.

‘We also need to see greater investment to support integration, including read-write access to health records for pharmacists wherever they may work’, he added.

Gareth Jones, director of corporate affairs at the National Pharmacy Association said that Sir Keir’s emphasis on moving more care out of hospitals and into the community ‘is something we hear across the political spectrum and makes complete sense’.

The government recently announced a £645m additional investment in community pharmacy to deliver new national services, including a PGD-based Pharmacy First service.

And the chief pharmaceutical officer for England said earlier this month that the cash injection for clinical services in community pharmacy was a key step on the journey towards independent prescribing (IP) in the sector.