Four leading national pharmacy bodies have joined forces on a programme of activities to lobby for fair NHS funding for pharmacies in England, it has been announced today (18 January).

‘The Save Our Pharmacies campaign will focus on highlighting both the pressures that pharmacies are under and the huge untapped potential of the sector – including to offer a Pharmacy First service – if appropriate resourcing is made available,’ said a joint statement from PSNC, National Pharmacy Association, Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), and the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies.

The group says it will ‘develop shared resources for effective parliamentary lobbying and mobilising public opinion in the face of chronic underfunding that threatens further pharmacy closures,’ and will ‘work hard to show off the value of pharmacy,’ continuing to push for a fully-funded Pharmacy First service.

Regular campaign events are expected, they say, with the first likely to run in March.

PSNC’s chief executive, Janet Morrison, said: ‘We’ve been telling the Government for some months that they have reached a fork in the road - they can continue to degrade pharmacy funding and let patients suffer the inevitable consequences of a reduction in services and pharmacies; or they can invest in this popular, cost-effective, entrepreneurial sector and empower pharmacies to help to meet the many challenges facing our health service.’

She described this campaign as ‘a clear warning shot to Government about the path they are currently on,’ adding that ‘it will also help to keep patients on our side, which is something contractors have been asking us to help them with.’

Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of AIMp, said that the campaign would build on extensive work that has already been done to highlight the needs of the pharmacy sector.

‘Pharmacies are struggling to keep their heads above the water as they are simply struggling to pay their bills. They are making losses, who can continue to survive if they are making losses?

‘AIMp has continuously highlighted this to decision makers and brought this to the attention of the public via the media. We hope that this cross-sector campaign will further amplify the plight of community pharmacy and its important role within the healthcare system and that it can successfully influence the fortunes of pharmacies everywhere in the country,’ she said.

The pharmacy bodies already meet regularly to discuss shared concerns, share intelligence and coordinate work such as to support the All-Party Pharmacy Group, but they said this announcement ‘marks a step up in terms of focused joint advocacy on funding matters.’

‘The intention is to make campaigning on this topic more impactful and cut through to public and political opinion with consistent and repeated messaging across the sector,’ they say in their joint statement.

Mark Lyonette, the National Pharmacy Association's chief executive, stressed the importance of the campaign for community pharmacy and the NHS, saying: ‘Together we will be cranking up the noise to persuade Government and NHS to make the right choices and back the community pharmacy sector with decent funding.

‘Maintaining patient and public support is critical to our campaigning success, so this will be a key focus in the months ahead.

‘Our joint message is very clear: pharmacies can help get the NHS back on its feet, but not while the sector itself is on its knees.’

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the CCA, added: ‘The current annual funding shortfall of £67,000 per pharmacy is simply untenable. The Government can no longer turn a blind eye to the sector’s broken funding model whilst insisting community pharmacy teams do more and more.

‘Unfortunately, patients, especially those in areas of deprivation, are bearing the brunt as pharmacies continue to close. Without immediate investment, pharmacy closures will only accelerate, and primary care access will deteriorate, plunging the NHS into an even deeper crisis.

‘The Government has a decision to make, and community pharmacies have already shown the tremendous strides they can take when the country needs them most. A fully-funded Pharmacy First scheme will bring much-needed investment into the sector and help build resilience and capacity into primary care.’

#saveourpharmacies will be the default hashtag for the campaign on social media.