13-14 OCTOBER 2024

11 Jun 2024

NPA calls day of protest to highlight emergency in community pharmacy sector

NPA calls day of protest to highlight emergency in community pharmacy sector

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has announced plans for a day of protest action on 20 June to highlight what it describes as an ‘emergency across the community pharmacy sector’. This event, named One Day to #SaveOurPharmacies, will see pharmacy teams across the UK engage in various symbolic actions to signify the challenges faced by the beleaguered community pharmacy sector. 

The date of 20 June has been chosen because it marks the point from which the average pharmacy becomes loss-making. Typically, NHS funding only covers costs for the first three weeks of each month, after which the business must effectively subsidise the pharmacy service. 

This move comes amidst an accelerating rate of pharmacy closures, with ten closures per week in England, and an increasing risk of closures in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It is part of the #SaveOurPharmacies campaign, which has so far seen pharmacies display new campaign posters, distribute campaign stickers to patients, and collect signatures in support. 

On the 20 June, pharmacy teams are encouraged to take various actions such as turning off their lights for a period, asking staff to wear black, blacking out windows, engaging with patients, inviting parliamentary candidates to visit, and using the #SaveOurPharmacies hashtag on social media. 

While the threat of strike action from nurses and junior doctors is well-known, especially in recent years, pharmacy colleagues have always drawn the line at striking – perhaps feeling that they are the last ones standing. And while it is important to note that this action falls short of a strike (unlike French colleagues at the end of May), it is still striking that community pharmacy has been driven to this point. 

NPA Chief Executive Paul Rees commented, “We are taking the unprecedented step of organising a UK-wide day of pharmacy protests to highlight the fact that there is a state of emergency within the community pharmacy sector and to draw attention to the growing crisis. Funding for community pharmacy has been squeezed over the last decade, resulting in a sector in very real distress. More than 1,400 pharmacies have closed in England over the past ten years, with closures also occurring in Wales and Northern Ireland and a growing risk of closures in Scotland.” 

Rees added, “The current medicines shortages crisis is being driven in part by the funding shortfall. Pharmacy teams are finding it increasingly difficult to deliver excellent patient care, and they are suffering from increased stress and demoralisation. With the general election in full swing, it is vital that politicians get the message: there is now an emergency in our community pharmacy sector.” 

This latest action comes after bodies across the pharmacy landscape have been engaging with MPs to try and speak up for community pharmacy. It will be interesting to see what impact this action has on the parties vying for our votes on 4 July, and what the next government does for community pharmacy. 

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