With funding cuts, closures and stock shortages, 2017 was no easy time for community pharmacy.
So will the sector fare any better in 2018?
The Pharmacist spoke to contractors to find out pharmacists’ main resolutions and challenges for the year ahead.
Helping pharmacy teams to be more productive and empowered is on many pharmacists’ agenda.
Ade Williams, superintendent pharmacist at Bedminster pharmacy, wants to ‘join other colleagues who are at the forefront of shaping the narrative of the exception impact pharmacy teams are having in their communities championing health and well being.’
Al Patel, owner of Lee Pharmacy, London, said: ‘Pharmacy has many challenges to be viable. People are resistant to changes and I would like to make that change.
‘I know our team can drive incredible change when properly empowered and this is my way to keep pharmacy sustainable.’
Keep championing pharmacy
Pharmacy plays a vital role in reducing supporting other NHS services by providing services such as flu vaccinations, urgent medicines and NHS health checks.
Thorrun Govind, a locum pharmacist based in the north of England, said: ‘We need to keep championing pharmacy and the role we play in reducing pressure on GPs and A&E and push for more support to train Independent Prescribers to work in community pharmacies and for their skills to be used by more commissioning.’
Whether it’s through the implementation of a dispensing robot or reorganisation, there are numerous ways to improve services and drive efficiencies.
Chris Howland-Harris, pharmacist at Ashgrove pharmacy, would like to see more medicines use reviews (MURs), new medicine services (NMSs) and an increase of private services.
Kieran Eason, owner of Eason pharmacy, Tamworth, said: ‘My work resolution is to breakdown all of the processes we do and aim to make at least one improvement to each.
‘I am currently reorganising how we manage our stock and we are going to change to an automated buying system after that.’
Many pharmacists agreed that the main challenge in 2018 is likely to be the funding cuts.
Mr Eason said that ‘reduced funding means this year a strong possibility of us needing to cut more staff’.
He said: ‘As a result, some services will have to be cut back to cope with the reduced manpower available.
‘The main challenge for me will be how to work out what and how to cut things back without losing business.’
Stock shortages, drug prices and reimbursement prices
Medicine shortages can lead to consequent price rises above tariff or price concession drug prices, causing pharmacists a great amount of stress and dispensing at a loss.
Ben Merriman, a pharmacist in Barrow-in-Furness, said: ‘Not only have huge cuts been made to our contractual framework leasing to reductions in professional fees, we’re also dispensing products not knowing the reimbursement prices until after the prescription has been submitted to NHS Business Authority (NHSBA) for payment, risking losing thousands of pounds a month.’
Tackling workplace pressures
All the challenges mentioned above have led to the biggest issue: pressure on pharmacists.
Workplace pressures placed upon pharmacists and how they can potentially lead to dispensing errors have been recently highlighted in a BBC investigation.
Mr Williams said: ‘The challenges for pharmacists will be how, in the face of seemingly insurmountable pressures mainly caused or exacerbated by the funding cuts, we are able to move the community pharmacy agenda forward to attain recognition of our invaluable role underpinning every part of the NHS.’