The controversial idea of a pharmacy merger is worth considering, but don’t waste any time if you plan to do this, says Noel Wicks

It’s looking like 2017 could be one of the most challenging years ever for community pharmacy. As the Department of Health funding cuts start to bite, contractors up and down England will be forced to take a very close look at their operations in order to weather the storm. And that’s assuming this is a storm, and not a permanent climate change.

Although pharmacy bodies and patients are united in believing that widespread pharmacy closures are against the public interest, it seems inevitable that there may be some attrition in numbers. I still find it ironic that the growth in pharmacy numbers in recent years has been caused by the government’s own agenda of relaxing the control of entry regulations.

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The busy winter period in pharmacy is a good opportunity to educate the public about self care, says John Smith, chief executive of the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB)

December is a busy time of year, but as many of your customers finally stop and relax in between Christmas and the New Year, the cold weather, infections, stress, plentiful socialising and overindulgence can all lead to people suffering from winter illness over the festive period.

In the days before and after Christmas and New Year, A&E departments typically experience an unwelcome increase in the number of people visiting when most GP surgeries are closed. With urgent care services under particular pressure this year, it’s vital that more people are encouraged to manage self-treatable conditions at home or via the pharmacy, so that A&E resources are rightly spared for the seriously ill and for emergencies.

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The need to demonstrate the quality of what pharmacy does to the NHS and others is here to stay, says Noel Wicks 

Quality, a small but very powerful word – its definition is “the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind”. And it represents a challenge for pharmacy. Can we demonstrate to the outside world, and in particular to the NHS, that community pharmacy services can be measured against other similar things.

This doesn’t just mean comparisons to each other’s performance, but rather the broader healthcare landscape that we are increasingly becoming integrated into. But I have no doubt in my mind that we can and we will achieve this. We will first have to acclimatise ourselves to this greater degree of oversight and control.

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Mike Smith puts the world to rights...

Silence always makes me nervous. The lack of any statement from the Department of Health (DH) was beginning to be of concern. But then, briefly, we had some good news. Pharmacy minister David Mowat announced at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society conference that the cuts would not be implemented in October, as originally planned, to make sure the DH makes the “correct decision”.

The PSNC is now in negotiations with the DH on a funding package with a rushed timetable of just a few weeks. I have said before that I consider the draconian measure proposed in the DH’s December letter suggested a lack of reasoned thinking and strategic planning. That said, this is no time for complacency. We still have an opportunity for informed debate about the future of community pharmacy.

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Whatever happens, community pharmacy has done itself proud, says Noel Wicks

Is it just me or does it look like pharmacy is in for another early Christmas surprise from the Department of Health? The recent letter outlining its invitation to PSNC to “conclude negotiations” by the end of September, with implementation from 1 December, certainly seems to suggest as much.

In the letter, the DH acknowledged the additional information provided during the interim period. This includes research from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on “the value of community pharmacy” and Pharmacy Voice’s joint report with PSNC. There have also been many other supporting activities going on, not least the NPA’s campaign to “support your local pharmacy” that has generated a petition with signatures running into the millions.

The whole of community pharmacy has really come together in the 10 months since receiving the first notice regarding the funding cuts. It’s been successful in presenting the value of what community pharmacy does and the difference it makes to people’s lives every single day.

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