Health minister Earl Howe has insisted that pharmacy has “undoubtedly turned a corner” in making the case that it is a credible provider in the modern healthcare system.
In a message exclusively recorded for delegates at the seventh annual Sigma Pharmaceuticals conference in Aamby Valley, India, the minister said that pharmacy had risen to the challenge in proving to healthcare commissioners the role it can play in alleviating the pressure on an under-strain NHS.
In what was an optimistic take on pharmacy’s future role in a health service that must make big cost savings – with A&E departments stretched to breaking point across the UK – Howe told the conference that pharmacy’s profile has been raised significantly and had compelled commissioners to sit up and take notice.
“Pharmacy has undoubtedly turned a corner in terms of raising awareness with commissioners. For a long time, we have been challenging you to get out there, show what you can do and prove that pharmacy has what it takes to be a credible provider in the modern health and care system,” he said.
“Have you noticed just how many times pharmacy has been mentioned recently in connection with reducing the burden on busy A&E departments and GP surgeries? Through campaigns such as NHS England’s Feeling under the weather? The message is clearly getting across to commissioners, patients and the public and the media are picking up on this.”
He added: “Certainly NHS England’s urgent and emergency care review acknowledges that far better and greater use can be made of community pharmacy.
“Community pharmacy will want to consider what re-engineering might be needed to ensure that its contribution continues to be of direct relevance to the NHS and keeping the best that pharmacy has to offer, naturally.”
More than 300 pharmacists and leading pharmaceutical manufacturers attended the annual conference in Aamby Valley, a hill city on the outskirts of Mumbai recently built by the Sahara Group. Hos-ted by Sigma Pharmaceuticals, one of Britain’s largest pharmacy wholesalers, the conference aims to promote higher standards of excellence within community phar-macy. This year’s event led with the theme Partnering for Purpose.
Sigma’s founder and managing director Bha-rat Shah said there were many challenges facing community pharmacists. He hoped that the “Partnering for Purpose theme would inspire independent phar-macies to pool their skills and resources to create growth and aspiration”. But he added that partnership was a two-way relationship and it had to be a “win-win”.
The conference heard from leading figures in the world of pharmacy, including Sue Sharpe, CEO of the Pharmaceuticals Services Negotiating Committee; Duncan Rudkin, head of the pharmacy regulator General Pharmaceutical Council; Helen Gordon, CEO of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and Hemant Patel, former RPS president.
Messages of support were read out from the prime minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband
“The public rightly values the contribution that community pharmacies make by providing clinical and public health services,” Cameron wrote.
In his letter, Miliband said: “At a time when GPs and A&E departments are under immense strain, too often pharmacy is an untapped resource.”
Earlier on Tuesday (17), the deputy British high commissioner in India and guest at the conference, Kumar Iyer, described the relationship between the UK and India as “phenomenal”. He insisted the partnership was being played out in the pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors.
Iyer said the strong UK-India relationship was highlighted by the fact that Britain invests more in India than any other G20 country. India invests more in the UK than it invests in the rest of the EU, something that was particularly apparent in the pharmaceutical industry.
“Companies like Wockhardt and Cipla are huge investors, with Cipla recently investing £100 million this year in the UK,” he said.
Iyer added that the NHS was also reliant on India and Indian pharmaceuticals, saying “the NHS would fall over probably in a great heap if it wasn’t for India”.
“Over 25 per cent of the drugs consumed on the NHS originate from India and 40 per cent of the active ingredients are sourced in the country,” he added.