It's time for the Government to move from warm words about the sector's achievements to more tangible forms of repayment, says The Pharmacist's editor-in-chief Beth Kennedy
Community pharmacy has often proven how much it contributes to the nation's health. This has been particularly apparent over the last week or so.
Just today (6 November), we reported on how pharmacies have already delivered over 870,500 flu jabs since the beginning of September – a huge feat in just over two months. Also this week came the news that last year's Stay Well this winter campaign – a national drive encouraging patients to visit their pharmacist for minor ills during the colder months – had resulted in an extra 1.8 million visits to pharmacy.
This had a significant impact in reducing winter pressures across the system, with 13,856 fewer people attending accident and emergency departments and 6,016 fewer being admitted during the three months the campaign ran. Both stories are sterling examples of how pharmacy always delivers the goods when it is supports to work to the top of its abilities.
Perhaps in recognition of this, pharmacists got a mention by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in a new document setting out why prevention rather than cure will be a the heart of his upcoming 10-year strategy for the NHS.
‘Prevention is crucial to improving the health of the whole population and helping secure the health and social care services we all value and rely on,’ the DHSC wrote. ‘The Government wants to encourage more people to make the most of their local pharmacy, and for local pharmacies to play a stronger role in helping people stay well in the community.’
And recognition like this from the Government is welcome – really it is.
The thing is, though, that I've always been a big believer that a job worth doing is a job worth doing well. So the issue I have is that this is yet another expectation to be heaped on pharmacists without the remuneration needed to allow them to do it properly.
This is symptomatic of a wider problem with pharmacy funding. After all, last month's long-awaited English funding announcement was distinctly underwhelming, with the most positive take away being that at least more cuts hadn't been made. As I said at the time, 'it could be worse' simply isn't good enough. Pharmacists deserve more.
Community pharmacy has shown time and time again that – given the necessary resources – it more than pulls its weight as gatekeeper to the nation's health and it's high time that the Government recognised that. Not with empty words of praise, nor with extra unremunerated work, but with cold, hard cash.
It's time for the Government to show its appreciation by reaching into its pocket, whether that takes the form of a more favourable contract in next year's negotiations with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) or more nationally commissioned services to boost pharmacy's coffers.
If you ask me, the best way to make a case for additional funding is to showcase the incredible work that you pharmacists do day in, day out until your pricelessness becomes even more irrefutable. So we at The Pharmacist will continue to do just that, bringing you all of the latest examples of excellence and innovation in the sector.
But to do that, we need to hear from you. Tell us all about the wonderful things that your team is delivering patients day in, day out. Email me at [email protected], or get in touch via our Facebook and Twitter accounts. We can't wait to see what you've been up to.