Hope in the darkest hours

Many pharmacists will have experienced the past twelve months as their toughest ever year. It has certainly been my own darkest hour as a pharmacy owner.

To help me maintain a positive outlook, I have sometimes brought to mind the phrase, “the night is always darkest just before the dawn”. This is more than just a platitude. There is an underpinning logic to the notion that our sector can win through and remain the beating heart of pharmaceutical care in the community for decades to come. Community pharmacies have unique strengths and deliver immensely valuable benefits to patients, communities and the NHS. This is no guarantee of long term survival, but it’s a pretty good start! Meanwhile, the NHS is facing an access crisis and community pharmacy, as the most accessible part of the health service, must surely be part of the long term solution. The NHS is being forced to think more imaginatively about where care is delivered, and this gives pharmacies an opportunity to develop as the front door to health. So, here’s another famous phrase you might want to think about: “nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come”. A speck of light amidst the current gloom is Sue Sharpe’s recent report that PSNC is experiencing “dialogue and responsiveness [with government] that we simply didn’t see in 2016 and the first half of 2017”. …

Core Belief: There Is a Clear Choice of Future

‘There are two paths the sector can go down. One involves mass automation, centralised dispensing and pharmacists working predominantly from GP practices or remotely. The other sees community pharmacies better integrated with other services, operating efficiently as neighbourhood health and wellbeing centres and being a front door to the NHS. This second path is the only path built on solid foundations.’

As we reach the end of our blogs on the NPA’s core beliefs, it’s important that we look to the future of the community pharmacy sector. I believe that there are two paths ahead; and the choice that must be made by the Department of Health and the sector is a binary one.  We go one way or another.  There can be no standing still. We already know the direction of travel that some elements within government want to follow – there has already been discussion of warehouse dispensing, centralised at depots; of Amazon-style deliveries; a direction in which the potential of locally based pharmacies all over the country is overlooked and undermined. This particular path has obvious and significant flaws.  In the last twelve months, a quick search on Google reveals that no less than six warehouses have caught fire with devastating consequences for their supply chains; a similar fire last year put a major part of Amazon’s Christmas deliveries in serious doubt. This path – the choice of bean counters in the Treasury – fails to consider the patients; those who are in pain or suffering from debilitating and long-term conditions. What happens to them in the event of an ‘interruption of supply’, or a postal strike preventing medicines from coming through?…

Chemist & Druggist: Pharmacy Show and Tell

As any pharmacist knows, being at the frontline of the NHS is to be ever-vigilant, and the work we do is vital to the health of both the general public and the NHS. We are all fully aware that pharmacies are so much more than purveyors of pills!

For this reason, Chemist & Druggist and the NPA are launching Show and Tell, an initiative aimed at gathering evidence of the benefits of local pharmacy services.  We know that good things are happening every day in pharmacies across the UK – but these are often not recorded and rarely collected together into one place. We want to tell the ‘pharmacy story’ to the world outside the sector, including NHS managers and politicians, and to do so we need a constant supply of up-to-date stories and data. This will mean that we can create more reports and provide more evidence to show how pharmacies support patients and how we can be a still more crucial part of the modern NHS. So, we need your stories – to begin with we want to know about the use of technology in your pharmacy. It is one of the NPA’s core beliefs that pharmacies must be progressive and modern, while at the same time being true to the historic values of pharmacy as a personal, caring profession. We know that technology can enhance the role of the pharmacist in delivering exceptional healthcare locally. We know that there are many pharmacists out there doing exciting and innovative things to improve patient care through technology – so we’d like to hear from our members about these innovations.…

NPA Core Beliefs Blog Series

Hello members, and welcome to the first in a series of blog posts that we'll be running over the course of the next few weeks, to correspond to the NPA's recently issued ‘Core Beliefs’ statement.

The hope is that by producing this, and having members agree on them, we can create a sense of unity across the pharmacy sector – the core beliefs are a series of simple, but hopefully meaningful statements that we hope to utilise as a reference point for everything people say and do in the name of community pharmacy. You can find this statement in full on the website. Throughout July and August, we will be hearing from a number of guest bloggers, each talking about a different Core Belief; including NPA Board Member Mike Hewitson, locum pharmacist Thorrun Govind and President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Martin Astbury. Please revisit the NPA blog to stay up to date with the latest from our community, and follow @NPA1921 on Twitter. Author:  Ian Strachan, NPA Chairman…

How members are the heart and soul of the NPA

My role as Chairman of the NPA crystallises to one very simple core: putting our members at the centre of everything we do.

The NPA Board and executives build policies and work programmes on the rock of a member centred strategy; it is essential that we provide members with solutions that make their lives easier, but that has always got to be underpinned by models which support their bottom line and improve profitability- and I speak quite unashamedly about that. The oxygen of a pharmacy business is cash flow, and the threat that the government has imposed will starve that oxygen supply – a high risk to small businesses not integrated with wholesalers. However, through the hard times, the NPA will be there for members, and help is at the end of the phone across our departments to help your situation. When a professional indemnity claim comes in, the person who picks up the phone is not a clerk or an assistant, it’s probably one of our team of solicitors who are there to help straight away. Their job is to reassure you, hold your hand, and guide you through the whole process.  Our press office will also help you to handle local and national media interest in serious incidents. This is the kind of service and support the NPA can offer to members in a time of crisis.…

NPA congratulates campaigners as DH announcement is delayed

NPA chairman Ian Strachan today congratulated campaigners against cuts to pharmacy services, as the initial deadlines for an announcement from Government passed with no official word.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt originally stated that DH aimed to make an announcement in early July, so that pharmacies would be fully informed of the changes to be implemented from October. Most observers believed that an official statement would need to be made at the latest 21 July, before Parliament rose for its summer recess. Ian Strachan said: “We still don’t know for sure what may happen, whether in October or further into the future. “What we can say for certain is that ministers and officials have been forced to think longer and harder about their plans as a result of the determined campaigning efforts of NPA members and many others in the sector, and patients too. “It is too early to celebrate. But it’s not too early to thank and congratulate the people who have fought so hard up to this point to secure a sustainable future for local pharmacies. There is a long list of people to acknowledge – from pharmacists and pharmacy staff, to LPC executives, patient representatives, pharmacy students, MPs, councillors and many others. “I am of course especially proud of the central role the NPA has played in mobilising the sector and other supporters. We are living up to the promises we made to our members from day one.…

Politics is in flux and the future of the NHS is at stake

A lot of things have been hanging in the balance lately – indeed, I don’t believe that there’s ever been a time when so many things are utterly unknown. Post our collective vote to leave the EU, it’s impossible to know when or under what circumstances Article 50 will be invoked or indeed who will have the difficult task of doing it. Both the party in government and the opposition are in flux and the headlines have been dominated with the fallout from Brexit, the fate of EU citizens living here, the teacher’s strike, the Chilcot report; political life in Britain seems to have become a whirlwind of uncertainty amid a series of complicated unknown factors.

Within all of this uncertainty it’s easy to forget that the fate of community pharmacies also hangs in the balance. The biggest healthcare headline this week amidst all the chaos was the news that Doctors voted to reject Mr. Hunt’s proposed contract and his insistence to implement it anyway, but before this Alistair Burt, minister with responsibility for pharmacies, resigned – perhaps not the highest profile resignation lately, but doubtless a significant one to the government’s plans. The only certainty here is that NHS is at breaking point and in the meantime thousands of pharmacists up and down the country are also facing an unknown future. Over two million people have now signed the petition asking the government to re-examine their plans to implement “efficiency savings” to pharmacies. The petitions have been delivered to Downing Street in box after box, from patients across the country, each of them desperately concerned that they may lose a resource that they consider to be absolutely vital both to their community and to their health & wellbeing. Many of them are currently living with the uncertainty of seeing that resource disappear, and the potential in some cases that they may have to travel much further to see a pharmacist.…

Welcome to the first of our new blogs, this from NPA Chairman Ian Strachan:

Winston Churchill once said "Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in."

The NPA, together with other sector bodies, are approaching this last week of the official consultation with Churchill’s advice in mind. We will never, never give in – and we want you to know that with your help we will do everything in our power to fight the ill-thought out plans proposed for community pharmacy. On the campaign front the Downing Street petition now stands at a staggering 1.8 million signatures – it is the largest UK petition ever. Its success is attributable to the support and consistency you have applied to the cause and I salute each and every one of you involved.  The petition symbolises not only the breadth of our support but the potential political consequences for a Government that has ignored the real victims to these proposals: the elderly, the vulnerable, the immobile and those without access to transport. The housebound; those who pharmacy has helped to remain living independently in their own homes for longer. The frail, and those who have little resource or influence to fight back. I appeal to all of you to defy the doubters. Defy those who feel it is a fait accompli, because the campaign is by no means over yet.  …