In the future, technology should intelligently support the changing role of the community pharmacist to bring benefit to patients, says pharmacist and P3’s columnist Noel Wicks

One thing will define the world of community pharmacy in 2017: technology. The use of technology certainly isn’t something new to pharmacy, of course, but it seems to me that the explosion of apps, devices, dispensing robots and e-services now being offered has grown exponentially in the last 12 months.

Where we once had too little choice of technology in community pharmacy, we are now overwhelmed by a variety of different solutions – all of which look capable of solving something or other we couldn’t do before. I’m thinking of the latest in repeat ordering, private prescriptions, medicine reminders and stock ordering.

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The potential for sales during the spring and summer allergy season is not to be sniffed at, says PAGB

As the poet Pablo Neruda said “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming”, yet every year so many hayfever sufferers act surprised when they find themselves suddenly battling blocked noses and watery eyes due to the pollen count rising. Although I have never suffered myself, I’ve already heard mumbles from some of my colleagues that the hayfever season has begun.

Most people only associate hayfever with grass pollen in the summer months, which affects 95 per cent of sufferers, and don’t necessarily know about allergies to other types of pollen, including trees and weeds, so it helps to help educate customers on what types of pollen they could be allergic to. Birch pollen affects around 25 per cent of hayfever sufferers and is usually the first type of pollen to appear in early to mid-April.

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Mike Smith puts the world to rights…

Civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi’s quote “the future depends on what you do today” really seems to apply to the position we find community pharmacy in at this challenging time. Recently, I have spent some time visiting pharmacists to discuss the impact of the cuts on their business.

From this, it is clear there is more going on than the double whammy of the cuts and Category M, both of which are really hitting cash flow. Added to that are other pressures including the increase in the minimum wage and, in some cases, astonishing increases in business rates. I also learnt that CCGs are withdrawing funding for pharmacy services, including PGDs on fusidic acid for impetigo, trimethoprim for UTI, smoking cessation and nystatin for yeast infections. The removal of funding for the emergency supply of medicines is strange, as we still await the finalisation of the new scheme.

I have also heard reports that pharmacists are not receiving referrals from NHS 111 – despite the announcement that this would be encouraged.

All of these problems are a direct result of the decentralisation of payment from national to regional funds. Community pharmacy alone is not affected by these changes. We read almost daily of increased pressure on budgets for health and social care, affecting many of our patients.

I said in this column many years ago that the transition from payment for volume to payment for services will be fraught with danger, and this has clearly proved to be the case. All of these issues come together to cause a ‘perfect storm’, which will inevitably increase pressure on already stretched surgeries and overcrowded A&E departments.

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PAGB is firmly behind plans proposed for community pharmacy, says its chief executive.

John Smith is chief executive of the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB)

Last year, Pharmacy Voice and PSNC, with support from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, released their vision for the future of community pharmacy in the shape of the Community Pharmacy Forward View (CPFV) and followed this with the Making it Happen document in January. The vision aims to integrate pharmacy teams into the wider health and care services to help improve quality and access for patients, increase NHS efficiency and produce better health outcomes for all.

I welcome the CPFV, and PAGB is keen to help support its implementation. We believe that pharmacy has a central role to play in the delivery of healthcare services and there needs to be a clear plan for the pharmacy sector, defining what it will deliver and how it will be resourced. Pharmacy should be recognised as offering accessible healthcare on the high street and we are actively calling for policies that will enable pharmacy to support more people to self care to reduce the burden on GP and A&E services.

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Mike Smith puts the world to rights…

Those who’ve read my column more than once will recall that I have pleaded for unity across our profession for many years. Sadly, this plea has fallen on deaf ears and unity seems further away than ever.

The power struggle in community pharmacy politics has gone on for far too long – for over 20 years in my experience. I remember from my days as a representative on the PSNC and the NPA boards that the tensions were already in place then. There are strong personalities driving these turf wars and they must stop or change. They are damaging our case and losing us credibility with the Department of Health. It is clear that I am not alone in this view.

Recently, former pharmacy minister Alistair Burt stated in his address to the Sigma conference that “pharmacy has got to be clear about who is speaking for it,” noting “I don’t have a view on what the position should be, but ministers need to know clearly who is speaking and who is in charge”.

To my mind, this statement could not make the position more clear. We are negotiating (although not at the moment) with a paymaster who does not know who speaks for us and is pretty miffed about two pending judicial reviews.

I guess we should take some optimism from healthcare lawyer David Reissner’s statement that, if successful, the judicial reviews could lead to a delay or even a reversal of the decision to impose the cuts. I have great respect for David, who I have known for many years, and I do hope that he is right.

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