Mike Smith puts the world to rights…

Recently, I attended the European Pharmacists Forum (EPF) meeting in Brussels and the Alphega Pharmacy European Convention in Monte Carlo, so I’d like to take a little time to outline the highlights of both these important events.

The EPF meeting in Brussels saw the launch of a White Paper outlining five key areas where pharmacists can play an integral role in healthcare in the future – medicines adherence, vaccinations, screening, self-care and disease prevention. The launch was attended by industry leaders, representatives of the European Commission (the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety) and other healthcare professionals.

It was apparent that many of those attending were unaware of just what pharmacy can actually deliver – a problem I touched on last month. We all have a role to play in the promotion of our profession, so I encourage you to read the White Paper here and spread the word: www.europeanpharmacistsforum.com/epf-white-paper

A representative from the British Medical Association said that the launch was timely, with GP numbers under increasing pressure, as many retire or move to work abroad. We should be pushing at an open door here. The opportunity is there for pharmacists to work more closely with GP practices – maybe a solution to the predicted over-supply of pharmacists in coming years? This is a view shared by the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Maureen Baker, who stated that ‘a hidden army of pharmacists could save GP practices struggling to meet patients demand’ (Kings Fund, 17 March).

We all have a role to play in the promotion of our profession

There was also a lengthy debate on the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD), which is due to be implemented in 2018. This is an extremely complicated procedure to ensure the traceability of medicines from production to the patient. It is clear from the discussions that pharmacists across mainland Europe have very little knowledge of this – and the same is true here in the UK. I would urge you to read up about this significant change and perhaps challenge your PMR provider to see if they intend to make any provision to support you through the implementation. Scanning of products will be required in the pharmacy and there will undoubtedly be some cost attached to this. Start to plan for it now. In fact, I have seen the complexity of the proposed European IT hub to implement the required changes under the FMD. Three simple questions spring to mind: Will it work? What happens when the system crashes? How much will it cost?

I then moved on to the Alphega Pharmacy European Convention in Monte Carlo. This very successful virtual chain goes from strength to strength, with more than 6,000 members across Europe, including more than 1,000 in the UK. I have practised for over 40 years now, and I firmly believe that this is the way forward for independent pharmacies. I recommend you look at what is on offer: www.alphega-pharmacy.com

On the subject of independent pharmacy, I was delighted to see the recent announcement on the merger of the Independent Pharmacy Federation (IPF) and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA). Both are organisations that I admire and Fin McCaul brings much to the collaboration. I wish them every success, as it is vitally important that independents have a real voice in the future. Another strong voice and powerful advocate of our profession will be Claire Ward, who has taken on the position as chairman at Pharmacy Voice. Of course, Alliance Healthcare is also a tremendous supporter of the sector – the EPF White Paper and Alphega are just two examples. I encourage you to work with us.

There is much to be gained from working in partnership with both wholesalers and pharma. I applaud the PSNC for securing the payment for recognition of the reduced margin available in the first part of the financial year. It will equate to about £2,300 for the average pharmacy (based on 7,000 scripts), but I know that you will be aware that income volatility will be an ongoing problem.

We are on the move, but the only way we can maintain momentum is if we push. Be proactive and push at doors – some may well open.

Mike Smith is chairman of Alliance Healthcare, mike.h.smith@alliance-healthcare.co.uk


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