Maria Caulfield, who is in effect the new pharmacy minister, expressed appreciation for the work of community pharmacies during a NPA podcast in the summer. She described community pharmacists as the unsung heroes of community healthcare and advocated a major role in health prevention.
She also acknowledged that, as pharmacies are asked to do more, this will need to be resourced. I have also contacted the new Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, and told the new public health minister, Maggie Throup, that we look forward to working with her on addressing health inequalities.
The recent launch by the NPA of our ‘How We Can Help’ plan is very timely in this respect. It highlights pharmacists’ strong face-to-face relationships with patients and years of experience delivering flu vaccines.
It also covers pharmacy’s broader potential in preventing ill health, managing long-term conditions and providing access to care near to where people live, work and shop.
Maria Caulfield has already called for more work to raise the public’s awareness of existing pharmacy services. Step forward the NPA’s Ask Your Pharmacist campaign, which runs from November 1-8.
As usual, it aims both to raise awareness of pharmacy services and to prompt conversations with key stakeholders at a local level about community pharmacy’s role and benefits.
This year the theme is ‘your local pharmacy can help’ and will highlight the range of clinical services provided by community pharmacies, including the new NHS services that are coming on stream.
Many people don’t yet know about these new services and only have a limited understanding of more established pharmacy services.
It is also worth noting the content of Sajid Javid’s first speech to the Conservative Party conference as health secretary. He said his three priorities were Covid, Recovery (tackling the huge backlog of appointments the pandemic has caused) and Reform of health and social care systems for the long-term. Community pharmacy is highly relevant to all of these.
Javid also made a passing yet significant remark about people “expecting to be able to see their GP, in the way that they choose”. Access to GPs is one of the issues filling MPs’ inboxes at the moment.
Community pharmacy’s face-to-face no-appointment-necessary offering is something to prize and leverage.