Community Pharmacy on your own

So public health funding cut, NHS England strapped for cash, call to action buried and little chance of minor ailment services going national. I could continue – too many pharmacies, dispensing is uneconomic and integration difficult. On top of all this salaries for locum pharmacists are falling and the supply chain is becoming ever more fragile.

There are of course some positives – the shared care records are coming and category M is relaxing a little. There are some great examples of integration, where community pharmacies have been granted read/write access to the medical records and carry out direct patient care in their premises. And the usual plethora of fantastic individual practice that wins awards, but is rarely shared to become common place.

Am I missing anything?

Actually I forgot to mention the dispensing for health campaign from Pharmacy Voice. A ‘long term campaign’ to encourage the general public, politicians, policy makers and health professionals to think differently about how they interact with community pharmacy. It is unlikely for me to support campaigns like this, but I do – it is very timely and appropriate. They just have to progress this to make the Community Pharmacy think differently.

Community Pharmacy is a business and like every other business, it has three lines in its accounts – income, overhead and profit. I am sure that most pharmacy staff realise that it is not the employers that pay their salary, but the customers. The more customers, the more income and the more an employer can pay for quality services.

Community Pharmacy is also a people business and we all know that the success of a business depends on the relationships it creates with its customers. We all know about service and the need to deliver great service above customer expectation, but have we considered ‘value’?  What constitutes value in a patient’s mind?  I have seen attempts from the PSNC and the RPS and NHS England, but I feel that most of these reflect managerial expectations rather than the individual patient. I have seen large multiple chains offering services as a driver for footfall, but does this drive relationships?

I wonder if it is actually pointless asking customers what they want. Mostly they say- what we have, but quicker and better. How do we explore customer needs in an open and forward thinking way – and without telling them what they want? I am reminded, however, that there are many example of pharmacy teams that have increased sales and prescription numbers through interacting with their customers in an advanced manner. hey are obviously doing something right.

So, bearing in mind that relationships are key to all businesses, we have to sort out some key elements that build relationships:

Active listening – this starts with a smile, friendliness and early engagement, but what am I listening for. In order to dispense health, I must recognise the triggers that allows me to ‘sell’ health

Clear Communication – I must be able to build on the triggers and deliver very simple messages clearly and concisely and link to written aids and the products that are sold within the pharmacy. I am not sure that I can change behaviour, but I may deliver something that the patient is actually seeking a solution for.

Memory retention – I must be able to remember the discussions that I have had, the products I have sold so I can reinforce the communication and ask directed questions. I have to always show that I care.

Negotiation and Persuasion – I must be able to find neutral ground where there is a win-win situation between customer and pharmacy. Be happy to win-win very small.

Efficiency – Obviously the transaction needs to be handled quickly, accurately and professionally. But I need to develop a whole range of ‘parcels of care’ that I can deliver to a wide range of customers, their families and the community as a whole

So what are these parcels of care? They are easy, just look around your selves and think about what you sell and why you would sell it. Track it back to patient needs and identify the triggers. Then build the parcel.


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