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An event of outstanding Collaboration, Unity and Opportunity

Every year we organise two conferences for our valued community pharmacy clients, one in the UK and one overseas. Both events provide the opportunity for us and for our clients to meet in person to discuss current issues and learn from a range of voices in the pharmaceutical sector through presentations and discussion panels with some social activities thrown in for good measure.

The venue for this year’s overseas conference was South Africa and we were delighted that so many of our clients were able to join us there. Our speaker programme for the event was designed to give the maximum amount of information and insight and included MPs, pharmacy representatives, healthcare professionals and leading lobbyists from the pharmaceutical sector’s trade bodies. We were even able to present a message of support from the UK’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Sigma’s Executive Team was also represented with appearances from our CEO Hatul Shah who facilitated the proceedings, a presentation from our Chief Commercial Officer Raj Haria and a welcome from our founding board members.

With the launch of Pharmacy First at the end of January, it was inevitable that many of our speakers would reference it. Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy England described Pharmacy First as a significant investment and a foundational stone for future clinical services development. However, she said that it wouldn’t solve the pharmacy’s underlying funding crisis and that it was difficult to feel optimistic about the future at the moment. Monitoring the delivery of Pharmacy First will be a key focus for CPE and she said that “With the right funding and core capacity, we have huge potential for the future.”

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, Chief Executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies said that Pharmacy First could lead to £390m in savings for the NHS but she said that the community pharmacy global sum would need to be doubled to reap the benefits of those potential savings. She also expressed concern for the pharmacy contractors who are wrestling to manage their finances.

Steve Brine MP, Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee admitted that there was still a lot of work to be done to fully unlock the potential of Pharmacy First. Appearing on screen in a pre-recorded video, he told the audience of the work that the Select Committee is doing in its pharmacy inquiry. He highlighted the need to address medicine shortages before they have an adverse effect on the whole system.

We also heard via video address from the shadow health secretary Wes Streeting. He said that community pharmacies are critical to the Labour party’s mission to make the NHS ‘fit for the future’ and he said he wanted them to play a greater role in healthcare as the NHS evolves into a ‘neighbourhood health service as much as it’s a national health service’.

Our conference brought together Chief Pharmaceutical Officers from the four countries of the UK. They jointly highlighted the urgent need for pharmacy professional leadership bodies and specialist professional groups to work together to deliver on their potential. David Webb representing England said his office was collaborating with Professor Mahendra Patel to develop pharmacy professional practice with 15 national pharmacy partners.

Professor Mahendra Patel attended the conference, this year leading the hybrid professional and leadership session which aimed to elevate the role of community pharmacy in the ever-evolving landscape of the NHS.

Professor Patel said “Having developed and led this session, I believe there are opportunities to explore with wider collaboration across different professions, and how community pharmacy may engage further in helping to support some of the national priorities set out for pharmacy.”

There was a huge amount of valuable information delivered, opinion shared, and interaction experienced, and we also managed to raise an extraordinary amount of money for charity – an incredible £30,000 in total. £20k of funds raised is going to Citizen’s Advice Watford, a local charity whose support of our local community is something that we value highly. The remaining £10k, much of which was raised by the brave sponsored shaving of our Chief Procurement Officer, Rajiv Shah’s beard, is going to four charities that are looking after a special little boy. George is the son of a friend of Sigma’s and he suffers from a rare cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma. The four hospital charities caring for George are Kings College Hospital Charity, St Mary’s Children Fund Hospital, Alice’s Arc and Great Ormond Street Hospital. We thank everyone once again for their generosity and warmth in donating to these causes.

If you weren’t able to attend or would like to revisit some of the presentations, we will be rolling them out on our YouTube channel so please subscribe to access our content whenever you like.

Sigma – YouTube Channel

Our thoughts now turn to our Autumn conference which is taking place in the UK on 6th October – save the date and keep an eye on our social media channels for further information soon.