Go on David, Surprise Us!

20 Jan 2017

Pharmacies are a hugely under-utilised resource within the NHS. To change this, there must be more ambition amongst policy makers, commissioners of services, and government ministers. Their attitudes show that pharmacy has been misplaced in the healthcare scheme; there are so many ways that we could help further

We can save the government money on various fronts if they were to use our full pharmaceutical skills.  If we actually had the pharmaceutical care management of the individual, including access to their records, then we could take care of them fully which would eventually save the NHS money when it comes to drugs usage. Pharmacies support better compliance, for example with asthma treatment to make sure that patients use their inhalers correctly. This has a knock-on effect and could save that patient from having to visit a hospital further down the line, which then relieves further pressure on that NHS service.

Services like this may seem small, but allowing pharmacy to take on that responsibility would have a positive impact which has not yet been acknowledged by the powers-that-be. We must be trusted and invested in to deliver more of the clinical services that pharmacists are capable of.

We should be more integrated with our healthcare colleagues so that we can contribute towards the care of the patient in a holistic way. There has been a lot of fuss recently about how social care is the other side of the coin to healthcare. Actually, community pharmacies are part of that same ecosystem of care, which also encompasses GPs, hospitals, district nursing and allied health professionals.

As well as being a board member at the NPA, I am also on the board at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee. It is in this role in which I had a rude awakening that the government really doesn’t understand community pharmacy and wants to lead us down the wrong path. At PSNC we presented to them some very practical steps the sector could take to achieve cost-effectiveness and indeed cost savings. They were not ready to listen.

The cuts could have a devastating effect on local communities in the longer term. Pharmacies could be forced to reduce services, cut opening hours, stop home deliveries and minimise staff teams- all to the detriment of the efficient and valuable services that we are delivering at the moment.

In some cases they will lead to closures, not even just the low volume pharmacies, it could affect established pharmacies that supply other pharmacies and have big bank loans. The cuts will lead to all kinds of scenarios, a Pandora’s box that the government have opened up and even they do not know what the outcome will be. Their own impact analysis shows that they don’t know what’s going to happen and it can’t be predicted. Perhaps these pharmacies won’t close in Year 1, but who knows what will happen by Year 3 or 4 if the government doesn’t reverse its stance and work with the sector to improve integrated care.

At the end of last year we were pleased to welcome some of the recommendations of the Murray review and David Mowat, Pharmacy Minister, should grasp this opportunity to change tack. It’s a new year and things do not have to go on in the same vein that they have been up until now. So go on David, surprise us by getting around the table with frontline pharmacists to discuss a radically different approach.

The responsibility that the NPA has to help independent pharmacies is absolutely critical. We are the Head Office of the independent sector and we see it as our duty to lead independent community pharmacies on a journey of change and improvement whilst retaining the very best of the historic values of our sector.

I think members value the amount of hard work we are doing on their behalf to highlight what community pharmacy is capable of- particularly in times of crisis like this one. I was among those who delivered the 2 million #LoveMyPharmacy signatures to Downing Street and I can see the value that members see in that, seeing that there is a body standing up for their core concerns and taking it to the highest level.  Rest assured that we will continue to do that and try to make the government see sense in allowing pharmacy to maximise our contribution to patient care.


Author:  Bharat Patel