Community pharmacists have raised concerns over the feasibility of providing new clinical services because of lack of staff.
Pharmacists will be expected to deliver the community pharmacist consultation service (CPCS), as well as a range of others, such as hepatitis C testing and a stop-smoking referral scheme, that were announced as part of amendments to the contract last month.
Mike Hewitson, a superintendent pharmacist at Bedminster Pharmacy in Dorset, argued that although the move is generally welcomed by the sector, it is ‘undoubtedly’ going to put extra stress on the industry.
‘The introduction of these new services will put a strain on pharmacies,’ he said.
‘Pharmacists' time will be taken up, meaning we need other staff to take up the other jobs.
‘That works for big pharmacies as they have more people to delegate jobs to, but for smaller pharmacies who already have staffing issues, this could be a problem.
‘Pharmacists are always a bit risk-aware when it comes to change, but I do think we’ll adapt and eventually benefit from this. We just have to be prepared to do things a bit differently from now on.’
In a recent survey conducted by Brother UK that looked into challenges facing UK pharmacies, almost 97% of participants said they expected to come under greater pressure this year as a result of having to provide more patient services.
In addition, more than half of the pharmacists in the survey said they’re concerned about retaining staff, with 51% saying they will need more funding to deliver training for the new services.
Echoing Mr Hewitson’s comments, Al Patel, a contractor at Lee Pharmacy in south-east London said the services will initially be a ‘struggle’.
‘A lot of pharmacies have cut down on staff because of revenue cuts, so staffing is going to be a big problem when the services first start.
'We’re going to need more people trained up and able to work in the dispensary while the pharmacist in the consultation room.’
But he added that the services could eventually fix the staffing concern if pharmacy put the revenue they generate into training up more staff to work in the dispensary.
Pharmacist Thorrun Govind said that she appreciated pharmacist concerns, but also believed there were lots of bonuses to the new contract.
She said: [The clinical services] give pharmacy opportunities, and we will finally get recognised for what we do.
'The CPCS is fantastic in my eyes. It’s going to be recorded, creating a database with all the good work we do which hasn’t ever been done before.
‘We have to adapt and accept that this is what we have to do.’