Core Belief: Community Pharmacy Can Do So Much More

15 Aug 2017

‘Our premises are conveniently located health & social care assets in neighbourhoods across the country.  Our skilled people have the capability to do so much more if liberated to do so.’

Chris Ford is the Head of Parliamentary Affairs at the NPA. He has previously worked for several MPs, a US Senator and as a political advisor to a number of large corporations. He is also a politician himself, having been elected as a Parish and District Councillor in May 2015.

With a title like this you probably think I am going to talk about the fabulous untapped potential of community pharmacy, and how this can transform primary care forever. If you’ve been in any way involved in the sector over the last 30 years you will certainly have heard these words before.

I don’t know about you, but I’m rather tired of talking about potential – after all, it’s just another word for missed opportunity; and as we face an existential health crisis that threatens the very existence of the NHS as we know it, I don’t think we can afford too many of those.

Don’t get me wrong – there are vast reserves of potential within pharmacy and we have plenty of evidence to make our case; but there is the rub – we need to get far better at making our case.

It is perhaps understandable that, following a relatively successful national campaign that nonetheless resulted in significant funding reductions, community pharmacy has lost some of its confidence, but I think the key to securing the sector’s future is recapturing that confidence. In a world where everyone is more sensitive to risk than potential, it is our role to prove to Government that our vision of the future is the right one– and that we have the commitment and passion to see our plans through.

Permission to do more will never come; instructions from Government on what the future of pharmacy should look like just isn’t going to happen.

It is our future, and the choice about what we do with it is ours to make and so, when I meet with politicians, I want to represent a sector that is self-assured, knows who it is and what it stands for and, most importantly of all, what it wants.

Such assertiveness and confidence is far more effective at taking people with you than a smorgasbord of laudable ideas with no clarity on how to deliver them at scale and pace and no commitment to take on some of the risk.

That’s why I think, ironically, pharmacy doing more requires us to narrow our focus, take a risk and decide the area of health we really want to make a difference in. Once we make that decision we then need to go for it, grasping the opportunity with both hands and proving just how effective we can be.

We should choose to do this, not because we asked for permission, but because we are the experts, we know what is best for patients and the sector and – put simply – it’s the right thing to do.

When we make a success of this, we will find Government and NHS England coming to us and asking ‘If you can achieve this in this area, why not this one too’ – creating the opportunities for a more clinical future for pharmacy, on our own terms, that we have so longed for. The NPA, building on the forward view, and working with the PSNC, RPS and others is now working tirelessly towards defining that goal.

Potential? In this humble blogger’s view, realising it is not about what you ask for, but how you ask for it.

Author: Chris Ford, NPA, Head of Parliamentary Affairs