Just one thing: focus on micro investments

The National Pharmacy Association tells George Osborne what it wants to hear in the 2012 Budget.

The National Pharmacy Association tells George Osborne what it wants to hear in the 2012 Budget.

If George Osborne does one thing in the Budget, it should be....to refocus public-private partnership, away from large scale capital projects towards micro investments at neighbourhood level.

There are 13000 pharmacies in the UK, located in every community. Combined, this represents a massive private sector investment in infrastructure that is used primarily for public service. For the average community pharmacy, 90% of the activity is on behalf of the NHS - from dispensing NHS prescriptions to medicines advice and delivery of health improvements schemes like stop smoking.
A genuine public-private partnership, one that delivers value for money to the taxpayer.

Many pharmacies have refitted over the past five years to install consultation rooms, providing a highly accessible setting for health, public health and community services. Yet the community pharmacy sector has now lost some of its confidence to invest in premises and services, because of the general economic situation and the squeeze on the public purse. Confidence requires there to be a stable regulatory system and some certainty that the NHS won't pull the plug on proven frontline services in order to balance the books in the short term.

Certain specific changes would help, including more generous capital allowances, such that when a pharmacy buys tangible items (e.g. medical fridges) they get more immediate tax relief. Business rates should not be prohibitive. Bearing in mind that many pharmacies are small businesses, we would welcome moves to get banks lending more freely. Meanwhile, greater freedom for local authorities to set additional taxes such as parking charges should be treated with caution; raising local taxes to offset central funding cuts can be counter productive for growth and retaining existing businesses on our high streets.

Yet above all else, the Chancellor and all his colleagues in Government need to signal an evolution in mindset, showing that they truly value the contribution of sectors that demonstrate the best of both public and private by combining entrepreneurship with an ethos of public service.

Bharat Patel is Chairman at the National Pharmacy Association

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