‘Change or die,’ goes the old adage. Community pharmacy has repeatedly proved that it is nothing if not adaptable. From the apothecaries of old who would whip up remedies from natural ingredients and the old-fashioned chemists who put together tinctures, to the more clinical, service-based pharmacists of today, the sector’s enduring success has arguably stemmed from its willingness to roll with the punches.
The next few months promise to test this adaptability. First comes the implementation of the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) in February. The pan-European anti-counterfeiting measures will see pharmacists scan all packs of medication to verify their authenticity, which is likely to put further pressure on already overstretched pharmacy teams.
If this wasn’t enough, Britain will finally begin formal preparations to leave the European Union in March after two-and-a-half interminable years of dithering about what exit deal we a) want and b) can feasibly negotiate. Whatever your views on Brexit, the current uncertainty around negotiations is likely to have repercussions on medicines stocks and prices for years to come.
With two such momentous challenges on the horizon, the sector is in need of strong leadership – particularly as this is arguably lacking in the UK’s political landscape at present. The new chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) Simon Dukes has kicked off his tenure with fighting talk, promising to push for a more modern service-based contract. With negotiations between PSNC and the Government yet to commence, let’s hope those talks prove smoother and more beneficial than the ones between the EU and the UK.
But whatever the outcome, I feel confident that pharmacy’s Teflon-like resilience will stand it in good stead. Come on, pharmacy – you’ve got this.