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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As we all know, self care is becoming an increasingly important part of primary care, and pharmacies are key in helping to encourage people to adopt this behaviour. There are many ways to communicate appropriate health information to the public, but the added value and personal touch cannot be replicated in a leaflet.

That’s why it’s crucial for pharmacy to maximise the opportunity of Self Care Week this November. Not only will it help to increase footfall and highlight the services and products pharmacies offer, but it will also help to support people and give them the tools to look after their own health for life. The pharmacy team has an opportunity to become the “face” of the campaign, offering that vital in-person advice, particularly about self-treatable conditions and over-the-counter medicines.

Organised by the Self Care Forum, Self Care Week has been running since 2011 and is an annual national awareness week that focuses on embedding support for self care across communities, families and generations. The theme for this year’s campaign is Health Literacy.

There are numerous ways your community pharmacy can get involved and help drive awareness of Self Care Week.

I would encourage you to look at the Self Care Forum website (selfcareforum.org) where there are free resources and materials available to download, such as posters and leaflets, which can be printed and displayed in and around the pharmacy to promote self care.

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