The new Conservative Government will ‘unleash the potential’ of community pharmacy, health secretary Matt Hancock has said.
Following a minor cabinet reshuffle this week after last week’s general election, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) confirmed Mr Hancock will continue in his role yesterday (17 December).
In a speech at the Policy Exchange today (18 December), Mr Hancock said: ‘We will “unleash the potential” of our pharmacies because there really is so much more that they are capable of doing.
‘Over the next five years, they will become the first port of call for patients with minor illnesses. More than 10,000 pharmacies are ready to receive referrals from other parts of the health service – and that number will grow.’
As part of the five-year contract agreed in July, patients phoning NHS 111 for minor ailments or requiring urgent prescriptions can now be referred to their local community pharmacy for a same-day consultation, for which the pharmacist will receive a £14 fee.
‘A decade of prevention’
Prevention is one of four priorities for Mr Hancock, alongside supporting NHS staff and technology and infrastructure within the NHS.
The 2020s must be ‘a decade of prevention of ill health’ that will include vaccinating against preventable diseases and ‘redoubling’ on efforts to tackle smoking and obesity, he said.
He added: ‘Each of my four priorities apply across every part of the system: pharmacies, primary care, community care, mental health, hospitals and social care, too.’
Mr Hancock added that working culture must be changed ‘in large parts of the NHS’, as part of the Government’s priority of supporting NHS staff.
He said: ‘It’s essential that we cut the number of staff leaving the NHS each year because they feel burnt out or under-valued.
‘We do that by… placing as much importance on the physical and mental health and wellbeing of our staff as our patients.’
Last week, joint research by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the charity Pharmacist Support revealed that more than half of pharmacists have had to ‘reconsider their career’ as a result of burnout.
Responding to the findings, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said it backs calls for community pharmacists to have access to ‘more’ wellbeing support funded by the NHS.
In October, the RPS launched a campaign for NHS-funded mental health support services – which are now available to all doctors and dentists – to be extended to pharmacists not directly employed by the NHS.