I recently asked the Prime Minister about the risk of six hundred community pharmacies closing because of a contract that’s driving them to bankruptcy.
It was signed before the cost-of-living crisis and prior to problems we’re now experiencing with medical supplies. You might think a doctor writes a prescription, the pharmacist provides the content and is paid accordingly but not so. If it costs more than originally agreed, the pharmacist pays the difference. There is a mechanism for recompense if the item is added to a ‘hard to obtain’ list but that takes a long time and doesn’t cover everything.
I hope people will support the campaign to ‘save our pharmacies’ because Birmingham can’t afford to lose local services. Pharmacies can be a lifeline for elderly and disabled people as we saw during the pandemic but they’re more than chemist shops. They’ll soon be able to prescribe. It could mean hours saved on GP appointments for eye complaints, skin problems and a host of other conditions for which there are prescription remedies.
Pharmacists could also do blood tests and other medical procedures. It would save travelling to hospital or seeking GP appointments. Britain has an exceptionally skilled range of medical professionals. Too many of them are underused. We also have a fantastic capacity for invention but our inability to translate inventions into treatments and services is holding back the NHS.
Here in Birmingham, we could make a real difference. As well as our Health Innovation Campus, we have the Institute for Translational Medicine, a partnership of University of Birmingham research and business start-ups. It aims to provide new drugs, technologies and thinking. We could expand community services, develop and manufacture new drugs, treatments and technologies and evaluate them here in the West Midlands by calling on the most stable, diverse community in the country. We are a medical researcher’s dream.
More use of professional skills, innovative technologies and treatments is the way forward. Birmingham can play a leading role. My message to the PM is ‘save our pharmacies’ and support our innovations. That’s what the public, our NHS and talented professionals need most.