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Community pharmacists need to up their game or face the consequences

David Gallier-Harris


IT’S an inescapable fact that there have been swingeing cuts to pharmacy funding. One would have to have been living under a rock and that rock be located on a stony shore on the farthest beach not to know this. Admittedly discount clawbacks of £15m per month from August 2017 and rising wholesale prices exacerbated the Department of Health cuts to funding but the trend is clear. The thing is, although this will have undoubtedly been extremely painful for contractors and business owners, employees however have so far been (to a degree at least) insulated from the full effects.

That insulation is changing – The closures / sale of 190 Lloyds stores, the increase in Hub & Spoke dispensing, growth of Pharmacy2U nominations (over 170k EPS nominations as of Jan18), potential changes to Pharmacy Supervision laws – are the tip of the iceberg. There are existential threats to the traditional pharmacist in the community pharmacy role. If we keep doing the same old thing that we are frequently accused of i.e. simply supplying NHS prescriptions – box shifting, we’re in trouble. There’s no place for us to hide in the dispensary anymore. It’s time for something new.

Workplace pressures and non-pharmacist area managers who simply don’t understand the day-job and phone every day with unreasonable demands which could compromise patient safety, are frustrating and demoralising. It’s all too easy to become locked into a corporate silo. However, we need to lift our eyes to the horizon and take ownership of the narrative.  We need to be proactive about supporting every and any clinical service that is appropriate to our patients that we can. We do this not to appease a company target but because it’s what our patients need.

Imperfect bodies
National Bodies, imperfect as they are, can only do so much. After that it’s in our own hands. The RPS and PDA can lobby government / NHSEngland. The PSNC can negotiate a community pharmacy contract framework which includes a service aspect. But if we’re unwilling or unable to take up that service aspect and prefer to box shift there’s little point.  We need to focus on the future and upskill ourselves or risk being left behind – changes to GPhC Re-validation requirements are potentially an opportunity for this.

We need to be demonstrate quantifiable benefit to the NHS. Every patient who can be saved from visiting their GP/out-of-hours/A&E through a pharmacy service needs to be sought out to demonstrate value.  Engage with what’s happening across community pharmacy and any new ideas as they arise.  Keep aware of PSNC, RPS and PDA initiatives.  Talk about the issues with our peers. Don’t just keep our heads down and box-shift.  As well as our patients and the NHS benefitting, we’ll be more professionally fulfilled.

I’ve seen more communication from the PSNC, RPS and PDA recently than before. I get a sense that there’s a ‘swan on water’ scenario going on. I sincerely hope that their activities are joined up – for sure there must be synergies. We must all however do our part as individuals. That nice secure community pharmacist job depends on it.

David Gallier-Harris is a Pharmacy Manager for a large multiple in the West Midlands and a member of the Rebalancing Medicines Legislation and Pharmacy Regulation Programme Board

These are his personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of any companies, or organisations with which he is affiliated

1 thought on “Community pharmacists need to up their game or face the consequences”

  1. Good article David. The Profession has to adapt to play its part in an ever demanding health system. I think we all see the I’m pending ‘car crash’, so the ‘sticks’ are all too evident. What I’d like to see are more ‘carrots’ from the DoH and our Professional Bodies to allow Pharmacist professionals develop their skills and services and be remunerated better for it, that way we’ll mutually assist our health system and improve efficiency.

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