Insufficient funding could see NHS leaders thinking ‘differently about pharmacy’ to help them cope with healthcare demands, according to the sector’s representatives.

Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) spokesman Neal Patel joined the list of healthcare experts questioning the amount of money the Chancellor Philip Hammond provided to the NHS in his budget.

Pharmacy was not mentioned by Mr Hammond during his budget announcement.

Welcome, but insufficient, funding

Mr Patel said: ‘NHS Leaders have welcomed the additional funding announced today, [but] we would question whether this is enough to support both the immediate demands the NHS faces now, and the even greater pressure in the future.’

He pointed out that the £2.8bn pledged to the NHS fell short of the £4bn health think tanks had hoped for. Instead, ‘the NHS will need to think differently about pharmacy to make the most of all the resources in the system’, Mr Patel said.

He explained that: ‘We must maximise the skill mix in primary care by integrating pharmacists into care pathways.  For example, increasing the numbers of practice pharmacists working in GP surgeries as part of the multidisciplinary team, driving forward pharmacy-based minor ailment services and adding to the growing number of pharmacists working in urgent and emergency care.

'Patients need the right treatment by the right professional and pharmacists have a significant part to play in relieving some of the pressure faced by the  NHS.’

Pharmacy leaders will continue pushing for extra finance for front line pharmacy, he pledged.

Future goals

Mr Hammond’s budged also promised £10bn to invest in ‘an NHS that is fit for the future' and expressed his hope that Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STPs) will make the NHS more resilient.

The RPS has contacted every STP in England to spell out the role pharmacy can play in helping patients during the winter, with schemes such as flu vaccination, as well as supporting better care.

Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive Sue Sharpe said: ‘STP leaders must now make the right decisions to make the most of the investment announced today and ensure the sustainable future that the Government wants.

‘That means working with the parts of primary care that have the most contact with patients, and it means investing in services that improve the health of local populations. Making best use of the network of community pharmacies on the high street will be vital to achieving their objectives.

‘The Budget also recognises the pressures that the NHS is under right now. Only yesterday (21 November), community pharmacy was in Parliament explaining just how we could make a difference, helping patients and reducing pressure on GPs and hospitals in winter.

‘Yet despite the obvious need for just this sort of help as the NHS heads into a tough winter period, community pharmacies are facing unprecedented funding challenges. We hope that the additional funding announced today will be spent wisely, on services that we know can help patients and wider public services, and which make full use of the network of community pharmacies.’

Thirty MPs attended an event in Westminster this week which gave them a chance to chat to pharmacists about the work they do during winter to help people manage their health.