A lack of funding will continue to be a major challenge for community pharmacies in 2021 but that is not the only issue that needs addressing, says Jeremy Meader...
Throughout the pandemic, community pharmacy has stood tall in its efforts to keep doors open and provide essential access to everyday healthcare but at what cost? Pharmacy teams have worked tirelessly to deliver but fair government recognition continues to fall short.
Yes, we’ve had cash advances and ministerial acknowledgement that community pharmacy does indeed play a ‘significant’ role in this pandemic but as welcome as this is, it doesn’t address the fundamental issue that community pharmacy in England still requires a fairer and sustainable funding model to keep over 11,400 pharmacies afloat and support their vital contribution to primary care across communities.
Lack of pharmacy funding continues to be one of the biggest challenges community pharmacy faces and with 2021 set to bring fresh demands on pharmacy teams, they will be under even further pressure to deliver against the service agenda.
Increased demand for deliveries has soared over the course of the pandemic, paperwork and legislation together with working hours all continue to increase and pharmacies have worked hard to ensure appropriate safety measures are in place for both staff and patients.
And it’s not just financial recognition that continues to fall short, we’re continuing to lobby hard for fairer clinical recognition. With thousands of community pharmacies ready, willing and able to deliver Covid-19 vaccinations to local communities, the full capabilities and local reach that 11,400 community pharmacies have to offer should have been mobilised a lot quicker.
While it’s rewarding to see many community pharmacy teams already playing a part in the mass vaccination effort, government needs to rethink all the red tape to allow thousands more willing and able to help.
The challenge remains how to really accelerate vaccination volumes if we’re to hit the ambitious targets set by government and community pharmacy can do that at an accessible and local level, administering the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
As a vital third pillar of the NHS, community pharmacy is ideally placed to help alleviate the pressures on hospitals and GPs delivering the vaccine. A network capable of administering millions of flu vaccinations each winter – and yet thousands still await the green light.
Tellingly, nearly three-quarters of Numark members have admitted they need more recognition from the government for the role they play in communities.
Thousands of community health heroes have emerged over the course of this pandemic for whom many have been duly recognised, but for the many hidden heroes of community pharmacy, I continue to be humbled by the sheer resilience and tenacity of teams delivering day in, day out, as do our local communities with more than four fifths calling out community pharmacy as going above and beyond in 2020.
We have a strong army of dedicated and clinically able pharmacy teams for whom local communities and the NHS would be lost without.
Every effort must be made to continue lobbing for fairer funding so that once the sun sets on the challenges of Covid-19, community pharmacy is ultimately recognised with a more fit-for-purpose contract that reflects its continued front-line efforts.
Jeremy Meader is the managing director of Numark.