Community pharmacy leaders have welcomed Dame Andrea Leadsom MP as the new pharmacy minister, as ministerial portfolios were officially confirmed by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) last week.
Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), said that Dame Andrea’s background in business, banking and health would help her understand the economic challenges facing the community pharmacy sector.
And Janet Morrison, chief executive of Community Pharmacy England (CPE), said the negotiator was looking forward to working with the new minister, beginning with implementing the long-awaited funding for Pharmacy First in England.
Dame Andrea has been confirmed as parliamentary undersecretary of state for public health, Start for Life and primary care, following the resignation of the previous post-holder Neil O’Brien.
Her brief covers pharmacy, general practice, prescribing and dentistry, as well as issues under the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), such as tobacco, obesity, addiction, children’s health, health disparities and social prescribing.
She has been welcomed to her role by leaders within the community pharmacy sector, with AIMp chief executive Dr Hannbeck suggesting that Dame Andrea’s ‘background of business, banking and health brings an unusual array of qualities to her role’.
‘As community pharmacy transitions into this new clinical future we look forward to supporting Ms Leadsom [to] recognise the credentials and benefits of our sector moving forward,’ Dr Hannbeck added.
She highlighted the ‘urgency of giving pharmacy the correct core funding’, adding that ‘while we talk without action, pharmacies in the most depressed and vulnerable locations are closing’.
‘We hope that her understanding of business, industrial strategy and health can help to set a new dial of understanding with the department and both the economic and health benefits from committed pharmacy integration into NHS,’ Dr Hannbeck added.
Meanwhile, CPE chief executive Janet Morrison said: ‘We look forward to building on her support to work towards a sustainable future for the sector, discussing the way forward and implementation of the Vision for Community Pharmacy.’
And she said that the negotiator would ‘work quickly to ensure that Dame Andrea is fully briefed on the ongoing immense pressures facing community pharmacy teams, as well as their potential to play a greater role in the nation’s biggest healthcare challenges, given the right funding and capacity’.
‘We are delighted that one of the first things to cross her desk from a pharmacy perspective is likely to be the significant new investment in Pharmacy First that we hope will make a major difference to patients with minor conditions, recognising the incredible role pharmacies play in providing accessible health advice and support,’ she added.
The Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire has previously served as the secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy and leader of the House of Commons.
She has most recently acted as the government's early years adviser for the past three years.
While Dame Andrea had been appointed as junior minister on 13 November, it was only last week confirmed by the Department of Health and Social Care that she would be covering pharmacy and primary care.
Hinting at her new responsibilities earlier this month, Dame Andrea posted on social media that she was ‘looking forward to getting stuck in’ and supporting ‘fabulous GPs, dentists and community pharmacists’.
Earlier this month, former health secretary Steve Barclay was also replaced by Lincolnshire MP Victoria Atkins.