Is community pharmacy fit for the future

This would be an easy question if we all knew what the future held. I started talking about this over two years ago in a blog called ‘dispensing on the titanic’. It was a simple explanation that dispensing, however important you may feel it is, is dying. Now we know for sure – the government feels it spends too much on it and with advancing technology, factories and on line pharmacies with click and deliver will take hold. Those amongst us will continue to fight the good fight to keep dispensing linked to clinical services, but even they must see the writing on the wall.

So what does the government want from a community pharmacy network? Well everyone knows that 1.6million people walk into a pharmacy every day and 1.2million of these have a health related reason. They know that pharmacists as a clinician in their own right are under used and there is great potential on offer. They will drive clinical pharmacists into GP practices and into nursing homes – either employed or contracted.

But what of community pharmacy?

There are new forms of community pharmacy:

  • Healthy living pharmacies and self-care pharmacies. The key element here is a proactive drive to offer customers health related advice and enhanced care.

There are new advanced clinical services on offer.

  • For a few quid, I can get my blood pressure measured, my HbA1c, my PSA and a whole host of other private services from highly entrepreneurial pharmacists.

There is a new breed of proactive clinical pharmacy teams

  • Counter assistants, technicians and pharmacists that engage with their customers way past responding to symptoms to offer proactive parcels of care. They fill the holistic gap of advice and services that are poorly delivered by the NHS.

There are new commissionable and managed networks of community pharmacies

  • There are great examples of where groups of community pharmacists are coming together to form a federation or network so they can be commissioned as a reliable group, perhaps on a single contract. There are examples of peer review based monitoring where every pharmacy shares service delivery data. Competition is reducing to be replaced by encouragement, sharing and co-operation.

There are examples of great practice

  • We all know them – pharmacists who have turned around and said to their health board or CCG and said – care is poor, I can do better – and to everyone’s surprise they have been given a contract, because everyone knew they could do better and patients matter.

There are enough green shoots out there to see that Community Pharmacy is changing from grass roots. Newly qualified pharmacists want a more patient-facing clinical role. And community pharmacy, when it has shaken of the shackles of dispensing, will provide that.

However, now is the time to pull together. Get HEE and the Chief Pharmacist on board, bring in the owners and the proactive clinical community pharmacists – sit around the table and work out what community pharmacy needs to look like and get us fit for the future.


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