Rosie Winterton – 2004 Speech to the National Pharmaceutical Association Triennial Dinner


Below is the text of the speech made by Rosie Winterton, the then Minister of State for Health, on 29 November 2004.

It is a great honour to be asked to respond to your address tonight. I know the Triennial Dinner has been a landmark of the Association over many decades.

And, given that I believe we have reached a historic moment for community pharmacy, it is particularly apt that we meet in such historic surroundings.

I understand that the Apothecaries’ Hall in which we meet tonight was rebuilt after the Fire of London. So I thought I would find out what you were all up to at that time. I couldn’t quite get back that far but according to the internet, in the 18th century apothecaries – and I quote:

– provided medical treatment

– prescribed medicine

– trained apprentices

– performed surgery

– and served as man-midwives

Is that familiar or what?!

At the time of the birth of the NPA I think you may have still been dishing out laudanum or some other potion to help people sleep but soon cottoned on to the fact that a much better cure for insomnia was inviting Government Ministers to speak to you.

I’m very pleased that the NPA has been at the forefront of developing pharmacy as a clinical healthcare service. The prominent position it played being illustrated by the fact that within four years of being set up the NPA had over 7000 members – a great tribute to your first Secretary, George Mallinson. And I am sure he would be very proud to see the expansion since then

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you all here and your association for its dedication and commitment to promoting pharmacy and its role in providing direct patient care.

I also want to thank you for the support you are giving today to a number of important national initiatives – not least our Keep Warm This Winter campaigns and working closely with NHS Direct to promote pharmacy as an alternative source of advice and help for others.

So whether it be producing a Survivor’s Guide to the new framework (which I found a slightly alarming title!), supporting and developing training for pharmacy staff, being an active and – dare I say – persistent watchdog and champion for community pharmacy contractors – all that is testimony to the resolve of the NPA.

Now much has happened since the last Triennial Dinner. Then I think we were getting on with our implementation of the NHS Plan and Pharmacy in the Future. Repeat dispensing, minor ailment schemes, medicines management schemes – three years ago these were in their infancy or still at the planning stage. Now they are poised to roll out across the health economy.

Chairman – you have touched on these in your address. I recognised in what you said your enthusiasm for moving forward, your determination to transform the patient experience which I find reflected across the country in the many pharmacies I visit. What comes across to me very clearly tonight is that the goals and aspirations I have are shared by you too.

And since I came to be Minister for Pharmacy we have:

– reaffirmed our ambitions for pharmacy within the NHS in the Vision I launched in Summer 2003;

– made clear in Building on the Best pharmacy’s vital role in improving access to medicines and patients’ use of their medicines;

– have seen 250 (two hundred and fifty) pharmacists qualified as supplementary prescribers – and Chairman you were one of the first to qualify – and I am very pleased to reaffirm tonight our intention to introduce independent prescribing for community pharmacists;

– launched guidelines for pharmacies to use the NHS logo – a clear signal to all that community pharmacy is truly part of the NHS. If we want community pharmacy to be in the NHS, we want that sign up there so that people readily recognise it as such;

– and announced our plans to reform the control of entry system which has addressed a number of concerns and is now, I believe, a truly balanced package of measures.

And through the NHS Improvement Plan and the White Paper Choosing Health we have signalled a new direction that will lead to action based on the principles of informed choice, personalised services and collaboration. In fact I can not think of a better place to start than the local community pharmacy. So I want to see community pharmacy at the heart of those efforts working closely with others to make the NHS a real health-promoting service – not an ill-health service. I want to turn those perceptions round and we can do that because of your daily contact with the public. We know that from the Big Conversation and the desire of the public for us to make much more of your role.

Of course, I am very pleased with the outcome last week of the ballot of contractors. That overwhelming vote in favour is a ringing endorsement of and, quite frankly, impressive testament to the months of hard work, hard talk and hard bargaining that achieved that result. My thanks to everyone who worked so hard on it. But I also believe it is an endorsement of the Vision we have for the role of pharmacy in the future and its closer integration with the NHS. I am therefore sure we are on the right track. I am committed to doing everything necessary to make this a reality from next April.

I am very pleased to hear Chairman that the NPA, will be playing its full part play in this. I appreciate your efforts to secure the new framework.

There are details still to sort out. But I think that with goodwill and determination on all sides, we can make it happen.

This is a new era for community pharmacy. There are real opportunities ahead not only to make differences in the way community pharmacies work but also to transform services for patients.

And we can expect yet more significant advances in the next 3 years. Full implementation of repeat dispensing, pharmacy connected electronically to the rest of the NHS, electronic transmission of prescriptions to name but three areas. Our document on pharmacist access to patient records is nearing completion and we hope to begin consultation on that soon. In your address Chairman you mentioned a number of the very complex issues associated with electronic prescription transmission which we are keenly aware of. I want to reassure you tonight we continue to seek solutions to these.

Change and the pace of change will therefore certainly continue. So I’m sorry to say that I haven’t come tonight with promises that the pressure is going to ease off. If anything, it is going to increase.

I know your organisation, your staff and representatives will respond with professionalism, enthusiasm and commitment to the challenges that lie ahead. And even if we don’t always see eye to eye on every issue, I very much look forward to working with you in the exciting months ahead!

I will fight my corner for community pharmacy and I know my colleagues in Parliament will too. But there is also the work you can do with your members to encourage them to strike up and continue dialogue with PCTs.

It gives me enormous pleasure to invite everyone to join me in celebrating your achievements and to anticipate your future contribution to what lies ahead.

My Lords, Ladies and Gentleman, at 83 years young, the National Pharmaceutical Association.