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What does the future hold for community pharmacy?

By Dr Livingstone

01 Nov 2018

Our GP blogger Dr Livingstone ponders on what the next few years could hold for pharmacy

Where will community pharmacy be in ten years time? Indeed, will community pharmacy actually be in ten years time? I ask because I understand that the latest iteration of the pharmacy contract has come with a funding freeze. Which means that all that political breast-beating about pharmacy being a key player in the frontline of the NHS is just so much hot air when it comes to ministers converting platitudes into pounds.

Hence recent doom and gloom headlines about more pharmacies going to the wall. And this doesn’t seem to be just hysterical speculation if my recent experience of local pharmacies is anything to go by. I see a succession of locums, long queues, understaffing and reduced services – and I hear a catalogue of complaints from patients who really are in a good position to know when a pillar of the NHS is crumbling.

At least in general practice, there are funds and a glimmer of a future. True, the dosh only comes in tiny pots and require a soul-destroying level of effort and box-ticking to be prised from clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and NHS. And, also true, that future – of federating practices taking on the mind-numbing drudgery of multi-morbidity and admissions avoidance and dancing to the tune of the digital revolution – isn’t necessarily the one we thought we’d signed up to. But it’s something.

You’ll know far better than me the end-game for pharmacy. But I’m guessing it might involve closure of some pharmacies – with redundant pharmacists trooping by default into general practice to fill the gaps caused by our workforce crisis.

In which case, we’ll all end up in an NHS we don’t recognise doing jobs we’re no longer wedded to. Which means that primary care will succeed in retaining some good people – at the expense of losing their goodwill.

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