A group of 13 MPs from across the political spectrum have written to health and social care secretary Victoria Atkins, urging her to address the funding crisis in the community pharmacy sector.

The letter – coordinated by Community Pharmacy England (CPE) – stresses that pharmacies cannot further relieve pressure on other parts of the health service unless appropriate investment and support is received.

The MPs write that they would like to see the Pharmacy First service extended to other common conditions beyond the current seven, but emphasise that this will not be possible if the ‘acute funding crisis’ is not addressed.

The letter calls for:

  • A commitment on behalf of the government to working with the pharmacy sector to create an economically sustainable core funding model that protects community pharmacies and gives the sector confidence for the future
  • The development of Pharmacy First to enable patients to have walk-in consultations for more common minor conditions, providing accessible care and easing pressure on general practice
  • The extension of other clinical services that pharmacies can provide such as vaccinations, women’s health services, support for healthy lifestyles and long-term conditions management

The MPs write: ‘Community pharmacy can do much more to contribute to key NHS priority areas and to help to get the health service back on a sustainable footing, but only if they have the investment and support that they need.’

CPE said it has also supported some MPs to write to the health and social care secretary privately.

The letter follows a parliamentary drop-in event on the Pharmacy First service last month, which underlined to parliamentarians and their teams the financial pressures facing community pharmacies.

Janet Morrison, CPE chief executive, said: ‘We are extremely grateful to all MPs who, time and time again, demonstrate their ongoing and lasting support for community pharmacies.’

She added: ‘The signatories of this letter, as well as the many other MPs who attended the event, know that the financial pressures facing pharmacies are extreme and show no sign of improving.

‘It is imperative that we continue to make the case to government ministers that the sector is far from thriving and is in fact close to damage and change beyond all recognition.’

The signatories of the letter are:

  • Peter Aldous MP (Conservative)
  • Marco Longhi MP (Conservative)
  • Peter Dowd MP (Labour)
  • Greg Smith MP (Conservative)
  • Sarah Dyke MP (Lib Dem)
  • Steve Double MP (Conservative)
  • Theresa Villiers MP (Conservative)
  • Martin Vickers MP (Conservative)
  • Kevin Foster MP (Conservative)
  • Neil Coyle MP (Labour)
  • Derek Thomas MP (Conservative)
  • Rachael Maskell MP (Labour)
  • Edward Timpson (Conservative)

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘Community pharmacies play a vital role in our healthcare system and that’s why they are backed by £2.6 billion a year in government funding.

‘We have also invested up to £645 million across 2023/24 and 2024/25 to support the launch of Pharmacy First and expansion of the blood pressure check and contraception services, which has been widely welcomed by the pharmacy sector.’

They noted the department was ‘currently consulting with Community Pharmacy England on the contractual framework arrangements for 2024/25’.