Pharmacy bodies have reacted to the re-appointment of Steve Barclay as health and social care secretary, calling for investment in the sector and the realisation of plans he was previously involved in such as a ‘Pharmacy-First’-style minor ailments service in England.

  1. Community pharmacy is experiencing ‘unsustainable’ pressures

PSNC chief executive Janet Morrison welcomed the new secretary of state to his role, saying that the PSNC was ‘very grateful to him for all his efforts’ during the process of negotiating the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework for years 4 and 5, which were ‘successfully concluded’ during Mr Barclay’s previous tenure as health secretary.

She added: ‘He re-joins the department at a crucial time for community pharmacy as we continue to experience unsustainable and damaging pressures, due to chronic underfunding of the sector.

‘We look forward to working with Mr Barclay, the pharmacy minister and their colleagues to further dialogue about the future role and funding of community pharmacy.’

  1. Pharmacies can provide solutions – but need investment

A spokesperson for the Company Chemists’ Association called for immediate investment in community pharmacy, saying that Mr Barclay ‘rebegins his role at a crucial time for the pharmacy sector.’

The CCA said that community pharmacies are ‘invariably solutions providers’ that can ‘take positive steps forward to relieve pressures across the sector.’

It added that it was encouraging that the health secretary previously worked on a ‘Pharmacy First’ model, however he said that ‘pharmacies need immediate investment for this plan to be realised.’

The CCA said that the NHS needed to urgently undertake ‘a holistic review of patient care’ to ‘ensure resources are directed where they deliver the most benefit to patients’. It said that any review ‘must be underpinned by a fully funded and integrated workforce plan’.

The CCA also said that the real-terms funding cut over the last eight years was having ‘a deeply concerning impact on the sector’s ability to care for patients.’

CCA research published earlier this month found that 41% of permanent closures since 2015 had occurred in the 20% most deprived areas of England.

‘It is only with investment that community pharmacy’s full potential can be realised so it can deliver more for patients and ensure the best value for taxpayers,’ added the spokesperson.

  1. Community pharmacy is a healthcare setting, not a retail outlet

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association said that Mr Barclay should prioritise finding a satisfactory solution to the pay dispute for NHS-employed pharmacists, saying that PDA members in the NHS would consider a formal ballot if other AHP unions moved towards industrial action.

It also said that the government should seek to address health inequalities, create the right opportunities for patient care as the result of more pharmacist prescribers; take action on community pharmacy funding and use community pharmacy to ‘its full potential’ in its response to post-pandemic wider health challenges.

It said: ‘Pharmacists stand ready to fully utilise their professional skills and expertise to see more patients for a range of currently unmet needs, and to divert some of the pressures currently being experienced across the health service, including general practice.

‘In doing so, we want to see greater value placed on community pharmacy sector and those who work in it. We would welcome the new secretary of state emphasising the importance of community pharmacy as a healthcare setting in the heart of each community, not thinking of them as retail outlets for wholesalers.’

  1. ‘Pharmacy first’ logic still applies today

Mark Lyonette, the chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), said that the NPA ‘looks forward to working constructively with Steve Barclay and his team, aiming to secure the kind of support that will enable our members to help get the NHS back on its feet.

‘The same logic that led all recent health secretaries to talk about a ‘pharmacy first’ approach to primary care still applies today. That provides a basis for a serious conversation about investment, even though all parts of government have been asked to look for cost savings.

‘We want him to buy into our can-do agenda for urgent care, long-term conditions, medicines optimisation and prevention.’

  1. Community pharmacy can play an integrated role in healthcare

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), said that she welcomed the return of Mr Barclay as secretary of state for health and social care, adding that she hoped that he would recognise ‘the growing calls for community pharmacy in primary care and the wider NHS’.

She added that enhancing the role of community pharmacy could help the secretary of state to meet ‘many of the ambitions of the [NHS] long term plan’, due to the ‘trust, respect and convenience’ that patients found in community pharmacy.

‘We welcome the opportunities which now lay ahead to demonstrate how community pharmacy can play an integrated role in patient focused healthcare and population health.’

  1. Don’t just get through the winter – invest in the future

Thorrun Govind, RPS England country board chair, said that she hoped that ministers would now be able to address ‘key challenges facing the health service and the country’ following the changes of the last few months.

‘This means not just getting through the winter, but planning for and investing in the future,’ she added.

She said that it will be ‘crucial’ to use the skills of all health professionals to support NHS recovery, reduce health inequalities, manage the growing cost of long-term conditions, and deliver best value from medicines. She said that ‘pharmacists and pharmacy teams will play a key role in enhancing patient access to care’ and urged the minister ‘to support a more ambitious approach to advancing the clinical role of pharmacists across the NHS, including through a ‘Pharmacy First’ approach in England.’

She added: ‘Amid warnings of potential cuts to public spending, I hope the government listens to health and care leaders who are united in the need for a comprehensive workforce plan to deliver better patient care. This must include investment in pharmacy education and training.

‘As scientists and researchers, as well as clinicians, pharmacists also play a key role in pharmaceutical industry and will be vital to building on the UK’s position as a world leader in new therapies and technologies.’