Several pharmacy bodies have joined forces to launch a joint manifesto for community pharmacy ahead of the general election expected this year.

The document calls on election candidates to back a six-point plan to ‘unleash the potential of community pharmacy’ and highlights the need for more funding, workforce support, a review of the medicines supply chain and more.

The #VotePharmacy manifesto was published today by Community Pharmacy England (CPE), the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), and follows an earlier ‘pharmacy manifesto’ published by the RPS in January.

It asks candidates to support:

  1. Filling the ‘funding gap’ and committing to ‘long-term sustainable funding’ for community pharmacy:

The full manifesto stated: ‘There has been no increase in core funding for community pharmacy since 2014. In fact, it was cut by £200m in 2016 and the lack of any increase since has meant a real terms cut of 30% over the past 10 years. Over the same time the amount of work being asked of pharmacies by the NHS has increased by 10%, making matters even worse. The recently announced Pharmacy First funding is welcome but only represents new money for new work.’

And it highlighted the increasing ‘cost and complexity of running a pharmacy business’, as well as inflation that puts ‘extra pressure on costs’.

  1. Measures to support the community pharmacy workforce:

The manifesto said further details on how the NHS workforce plan will be implemented are needed ‘urgently’, while ‘sustainable workforce planning by the government, NHS and integrated care systems, backed by investment in education and training’, is needed to ‘ensure we have the pharmacy teams we need, where we need them’.

  1. Protecting access to medicines, including ‘an end-to-end review of the medicines supply chain’:

‘Pharmacists and their teams have to spend too much of their valuable time sourcing medicines that are in short supply,’ the manifesto explained.

‘They should be enabled to make simple, appropriate changes to medicines where this is safe and could help alleviate access issues,’ it added.

In addition, it highlighted ‘unsustainable’, ‘volatile pricing’ that means ‘pharmacy businesses are often dispensing NHS medicines at a loss’.

The manifesto added that ‘ever decreasing prices’ for medicines ‘cannot continue indefinitely’, and suggested ‘this approach weakens the UK’s standing in a fragile global medicines market, and is directly leading to shortages’.

  1. The roll-out of an enhanced Pharmacy First service in England:

This should allow community pharmacists to supply over-the-counter medicines, when required, through an expanded Pharmacy First service, as is already the case in Scotland, Wales, and some parts of England on a locally commissioned basis.

  1. Empowering community pharmacists to do more, including with ‘an ambitious roadmap for independent prescribing’:

This would see training plans, including for the existing workforce, accelerated, according to the manifesto.

Ambitious and effective commissioning is also required to ensure community pharmacists can use their prescribing qualifications to support patient care,’ the full manifesto added.

  1. Community pharmacies to become ‘centres for public health, prevention and reducing health inequalities’:

This would give the sector a greater role in testing, screening and long-term conditions management, as well as commissioning more vaccination services through the sector.

CPE chief executive Janet Morrison commented: ‘The general election campaigning period is always an important moment to highlight community pharmacies – both their value and the critical situation they now find themselves in – and to start to build Parliamentary supporters for the future.

‘We hope that all pharmacy owners, as well as LPCs [local pharmaceutical committees] and other pharmacy owner representatives, will be able to support it and to help us to make community pharmacy’s voice heard ahead of the election,’ she added.

Meanwhile, NPA chief executive Paul Rees, said: ‘It is critical that whichever party forms the next government, they recognise that community pharmacy is facing its biggest crisis in living memory – with eight pharmacies closing a week and 1,000 having closed over the last decade.

‘We urgently need a new deal for pharmacy – which among other things must include a massive injection of funding and an end to community pharmacy being treated as a second-class citizen within the NHS, where it is viewed as a way to squeeze out cost instead of as a valued clinical service.

‘This joint manifesto spells out the many challenges requiring an urgent political response, to maximise our sector’s contribution to NHS patient care.’

‘Years of underfunding’ for the sector resulting in pharmacy closures was also highlighted by CCA chief executive Malcolm Harrison.

‘The launch of Pharmacy First is a positive first step towards changing the future for pharmacy however, without additional investment in the core funding for medicines supply, we will continue to see further closures,’ Mr Harrison said.

Expanding and enhancing Pharmacy First ‘at pace’ ‘makes sense for patients, pharmacies and the NHS’, he added.

Meanwhile Tase Oputu, chair of the RPS in England, drew attention to the pressure the community pharmacy system is under.

‘Sustainable funding and support for the workforce will be crucial,’ Ms Oputu said.

And she added: ‘As more pharmacists become prescribers, it is vital the next government makes the most of this opportunity to transform patient care and ensure a positive future for community pharmacy at the heart of the nation’s health service.’