Finding efficiencies and extra capacity is going to be important for all community pharmacies, says Noel Wicks

"Efficiency". In the last decade this word has become a byword in business for cutbacks, redundancies and closures, and while we are familiar with industries such as banking and retail announcing widespread efficiencies, this is not something you often hear so much of in the pharmacy world.

I suspect this is largely because community pharmacy has always offered a fairly efficient service, particularly when compared to other healthcare services.

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PAGB is aiming a range of proposals at policy makers. Here is more information and a suggestion for how you can help…

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

Accident and emergency services across the UK are facing one of the worst winters they’ve ever had, with media reports of vital operations being cancelled and elderly people and children being forced to sleep in hospital corridors due to a lack of bed space.

This crisis has only added fuel to the argument that the system needs to start shifting towards a greater focus on preventive care, and a need to educate people – on both a national and local level – about their health and how to self care.

This winter, PAGB conducted research into the use of GP and A&E services for self-treatable conditions in Greater Manchester. We found that the area has 12 per cent more A&E attendances for minor ailments than the region with the lowest proportion – the east of England – and almost one in 10 people (nine per cent) lack the confidence to manage their own health.

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Mike Smith puts the world to rights…

We have to face up to the facts about the NHS – it is abundantly clear that the financial pressures are growing daily. Last month, this column was headed “Between a rock and a hard place”. This time, I want to make a case for facing up to the reality of the situation, and working with the Department of Health and commissioners to address the crisis.

Every day, I read more stories about ambulances turned away from A&E, with emergency departments and GP surgeries unable to cope with increased demand on their services. I have referred to these winter pressures many times over recent months – and they’re not going away.

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Mike Smith puts the world to rights…

I have long-argued that community pharmacy needs to act as a unified profession and work more closely with the Department of Health (DH) to help them achieve NHS savings. I am disappointed that the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) is to withdraw support for Pharmacy Voice at the end of 2017.

I’m dumbstruck. I just wish that these guys would get around the same table – PSNC, RPS, NPA, PV or whatever you want to call it – to agree a common way forward that gives us credibility in the face of a DH which has no time for financial wrangling. When we should be working together, we seem to be moving even further apart.

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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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