Pharmacy Summit explores ways of relieving huge demand

Reducing the huge pressures on pharmacy, tackling abuse towards staff, and working towards a future vision, were among the topics discussed at Portsmouth’s first Community Pharmacy Summit.

The city’s pharmacists joined Portsmouth City councillors and NHS leaders at the event on Wednesday 15 November, to begin working together to meet some of the challenges facing community pharmacy locally. This includes the increasing demand on pharmacy services, and the challenges of delivering important NHS services to patients while remaining financially sustainable.

Hosted by Portsmouth City Council, the Summit also brought together representatives from Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary, University of Portsmouth, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Integrated Care Board and businesses to discuss new opportunities to work together.

It was held at Portsmouth Guildhall and chaired by Cllr Matthew Winnington, Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing, Health and Care, and Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Cabinet Member for Transport.

Cllr Winnington said: “We know from the closure of community pharmacies in recent years, that the sector is under great pressure to keep delivering the really important health services to Portsmouth patients.

“This is why we called the Summit, and it was extremely beneficial to have representatives from across the city together to discuss the difficulties and begin working on ways we can meet the challenges together.”

Ideas were put forward to better connect community pharmacy with other areas of primary care, including creating easier digital access, and help to relieve pressure on the wider health system. Ways to support pharmacy staff to undertake training to treat more illnesses, and opportunities to utilise pharmacy students to deliver care were discussed, to protect the current and future workforce.

Discussions also took place on helping pharmacists to signpost people with mental health issues to the right services, and supporting the safety of staff, particularly during evening hours.

Artur Pysz, Joint Chief Officer for Community Pharmacy South Central said: “We represent all pharmacy contractors, including multiples and independents, who are currently under unprecedented financial pressure resulting in closures and an increasing workload. Community pharmacies are expected to deliver more clinical services while national funding remains the same.

“So, it is really important that we are working together in these ways to help community pharmacy to continue in our vital role in supporting the whole health sector for years to come.”

The Summit followed a roundtable discussion with community pharmacists in September, where the key themes were decided. It was timely, following the national announcement on 16 November to launch a ‘Pharmacy First’ service in England from 31 January 2024, and an expansion of existing pharmacy contraception and blood pressure services within community pharmacies.