A key part of PSNC’s role is communicating with audiences outside of pharmacy – such as politicians, charities and national media – to build support and gain advocates who can champion the sector on our behalf.
031 | Demonstrating the sector’s value
PSNC was particularly keen to demonstrate to others the value of community pharmacy teams during the COVID-19 pandemic. As other healthcare providers became more difficult for patients to access, pharmacies were handling a large number of requests for advice. In summer 2020 and again in early 2021, PSNC conducted audits to assess the number of informal – and therefore unfunded – patient consultations that happen in community pharmacy.
We found that pharmacists and their teams respond to over 600,000 patient queries a week, saving almost half a million GP visits. Every year 5 million people visit a pharmacy because they have been unable to access other healthcare and, during the pandemic,
1 in 4 consultations involved COVID-19 related advice. Briefings, infographics and social media assets were developed to promote the important role pharmacies play in public health.
During a Parliamentary debate in March 2021 examining the effect COVID-19 has had on community pharmacies, the results of PSNC’s audits were mentioned several times, as MPs used the opportunity to highlight the sheer number of informal consultations occurring in pharmacies and their value to patients.
032 | Getting pharmacy’s voice heard
Brexit concerns rumbled on in the background as the UK reached the end of its Transition Period. In late 2020 PSNC reconvened its Community Pharmacy Brexit Forum, where more than 20 organisations across the pharmacy, wholesale and wider primary care sectors met to discuss Brexit matters ahead of the 31st December deadline.
PSNC and the British Medical Association (BMA) also issued a joint statement on medicines supply, indicating the united position across primary care.
In January 2021, a concerted effort began to demand a greater role for pharmacies in the COVID-19 vaccination programme. The Telegraph ran a front-page article on pharmacy’s ask, drawing heavily on an exclusive interview with PSNC Chief Executive, Simon Dukes.
PSNC also provided follow-up interviews with the BBC News Channel, BBC Radio 5 Live, Times Radio, Associated Press, LBC Radio and LBC News.
This led Prime Minister Boris Johnson to be asked in Parliament to confirm pharmacy’s role in the programme. The national media push ultimately provoked Ministerial support as well as a series of meetings with the Government and NHS to plan for the wider involvement of more pharmacies in the vaccination programme.
033 | Raising funding concerns
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Pharmacy, of which PSNC is a co-sponsor, launched an inquiry into the pressures of COVID-19 on the sector, which concluded that some pharmacies could be forced to close without additional Government support. Ahead of the 2021 Budget announcement, PSNC wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, outlining the impact that repayment of the £370 million COVID loans could have on community pharmacies. National media and Parliamentary activity co-ordinated by PSNC aimed to put further pressure on the Chancellor to intervene in the ongoing COVID costs negotiations.
Around 50 supportive MPs and Peers were sent a briefing demonstrating the sector’s value and calling for the loans to be written off. At least 8 MPs sent letters directly to the Chancellor calling for additional financial support for community pharmacies and the APPG began enlisting MPs to co-sign a letter calling for pharmacies’ COVID loans to be written off. Chair of the APPG and former Health Minister, Jackie Doyle-Price, organised a Parliamentary debate about the impact of the pandemic on community pharmacies, which was addressed by Pharmacy Minister Jo Churchill MP and a further 13 MPs contributed to. Many MPs also called for urgent financial assistance for the sector, including by writing off the advance payments.
034 | Working with others
In October 2020, PSNC collaborated with a group of healthcare bodies – including fellow pharmacy bodies, consumer healthcare association PAGB and NHS Clinical Commissioners – to call for a national self-care strategy. The Clinical Consensus on Self Care recommended NHS leaders explore additional pathways to access the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) and enable community pharmacists to populate medical records with fully integrated IT systems.