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Reflections on the Conservative Party conference

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Representing the Royal Pharmaceutical Society at the Conservative Party conference was an interesting experience this year. The general mood of the delegates in the main hall was constrained, yet the fringe meetings were buzzing with animated debate and discussion about the future. With consensus that the general election in June had misfired, there was also recognition that there is serious work to be done over the next two years, as the party in government, to deliver a successful Brexit for the country.

There was certainly animated debate about the future of healthcare. Attending the Health and Care forum reception, Jeremy Hunt MP highlighted the importance of a better integrated NHS, to meet the challenges of the 21st century, with patients taking more responsibility for their health. With mental health high on the conference agenda, the RPS took the opportunity to highlight the need for mental health to be a target category in medicines use reviews and new medicine services.

At the National Pharmacy Association fringe on the role of pharmacy in ‘saving’ the NHS, Bim Afolami MP agreed that the clinical and social benefits for pharmacy were clear, but the financial benefits were yet to be realised. This was further emphasised by ResPublica’s Dr James Noyes, who highlighted that the pharmacy profession was yet to make its case to the Treasury.

Engaging with the Science and Technology forum, the RPS took the opportunity to highlight the importance of science in pharmacists’ training, the contribution pharmacy makes to pharmaceutical science, and the importance of engaging with our healthcare colleagues in the disruptive technologies of the future.

At the BMA and RCGP roundtable, discussion focused on navigating the multiple interfaces between secondary and primary care, and between the professions. There was agreement that it is the relationships between healthcare professionals that make the difference to good patient care, and acknowledgement of the requirement to overcome the barriers of finance and data sharing.

So, although healthcare remained high on the agenda again this year, it was clear to me that we need to raise our profile as a profession, just as the medics and nurses are doing. We need to recognise that Brexit is dominating the political agenda and we must be careful not to get lost in the weeds.

So now more than ever, we need to pull together as a profession, work alongside each other, join forces, and increase our impact and influence, as the UK’s third largest healthcare profession.

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