Pharmacy bodies have responded to the announcement of Rishi Sunak as the UK’s new Prime Minister, many citing Mr Sunak’s personal experience of community pharmacy and previous interactions with him as Chancellor - but emphasising the challenges ahead.

This comes after The Pharmacist looked at Mr Sunak’s pharmacy and healthcare track record for clues as to what his time as Prime Minister might mean for community pharmacy.

‘Naïve to expect special treatment’

The chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), Mark Lyonette, said that the NPA has had several exchanges with Rishi Sunak as Chancellor, and ‘will of course work constructively with him as PM, as well as his new ministerial team when it forms’.

However, he added: ‘It would be naive to expect any special treatment from Rishi Sunak just because of his familiarity with the sector as a young man. We need to keep making the painstaking case for investment in community pharmacy, based on a demonstrable return in terms of patient outcomes and benefits to the NHS and society as a whole. The government needs to think of community pharmacy less as a cost centre and more as a value creator.

‘Even with a change at the top of government, the prevailing circumstances for the health sector remain unchanged: there is a huge NHS backlog and a crisis in primary care, both of which require community pharmacy to be part of the solution.’

Mr Sunak was raised in Southampton, where his mother Usha Sunak owned Sunak Pharmacy on Burgess Road between 1995 and 2014, when it was sold to PharmaLink. The pharmacy continues to run as Bassett Pharmacy.

Health secretary appointment crucial

Paul Day, director of the Pharmacist Defence Association (PDA), said the PDA welcomes a Prime Minister with a family history of community pharmacy, saying that Sunak therefore ‘should understand the potential for the sector and the need for adequate funding’, adding that ‘pharmacists look forward to seeing that understanding reflected in future decisions’.

However, he stressed the PDA represents pharmacists in all areas of practice, including hospital and PCN pharmacists. ‘The immediate decision that will have impact on the health sector is who Mr Sunak appoints as health and social care secretary, and how they approach the challenges facing the NHS and wider health system,’ he said.

Working together to address challenges

Janet Morrison, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, congratulated Mr Sunak on his successful nomination as leader of the Conservative Party and imminent appointment as Prime Minister.

‘Given his family connection to pharmacy, we are particularly looking forward to working with him and his Ministers to help the community pharmacy sector to reach its full potential to support patients and the NHS, while recognising and alleviating the enormous pressures that the entire network now faces. We look forward to working with this new Government to address these challenges,’ she said.

Support pharmacy to deliver patient care

Thorrun Govind, England Country Board Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), said that the Prime Minister ‘will have seen first-hand the value of pharmacists and pharmacy teams to their local communities and the nation’s health, including through delivering record numbers of COVID-19 and flu vaccinations’.

She added: ‘I hope he will recognise the need to support the pharmacy profession and all our health and care staff so we can continue to deliver the best care for patients.’

Recognise the economic crisis facing the sector

A spokesperson for the Company Chemists' Association (CCA) said that it welcomes the appointment of Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister.

'He has seen first-hand the value of community service, and how pharmacists are the "responsive, local heartbeat of our healthcare system".

'We look forward to working with Government to get the best outcomes for patients and the best value for taxpayers. The Prime Minister acknowledges that there is an opportunity for the NHS to allow pharmacies to do more. However, this can only be achieved if Government recognise the economic crisis the sector is in.'

Investing in pharmacy 'one of the best productivity measures' this government could make

Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), congratulated Mr Sunak on his appointment and welcomed him to the role.

She said: 'Much has been made of his connections and how his earlier years delivering pharmacy prescriptions as well as learning the books may assist our fortunes.

'We hope the economic case for community pharmacy as an efficient productive and accessible network is not lost by the ex-chancellor. At a time of limited resource and unparalleled capacity challenges to the NHS investing in our sector represents one of the best productivity measures his government could make.'

She added: 'Happy Diwali and may the light of hope and new beginnings shine down on our sector.'