I feel frustrated that we in community pharmacy are having to fight to be part of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, says Nick Kaye...
So here we are in a new year but still in the middle of what feels like a fight. It’s a fight to balance home and work with unprecedented demand on our time and our services as community pharmacists and pharmacy teams.
It’s a fight to balance the books, it’s a fight not to lose heart in the time off and breaks that haven’t happened over the last 12 months. It will be a fight to keep our services running when Covid testing shows team members are Covid-positive and had no idea. However, we shouldn’t have to fight to be able to do the right thing.
As I am writing this the frustration that I am feeling having to fight for community pharmacy to be part of the Covid vaccination programme is very real.
I have the skills, I have done the training and I have vaccinated in general practice so what is the issue? The supply chain? The storage? None of these things are important enough not to let community pharmacy in this space.
The most frightening thing associated with this service currently in primary care is the mountains of red tape. We as a society need confidence in the service to be delivered in the right way but we already have a nationally delivered annual vaccine service called flu, so let’s not reinvent the wheel.
This service will be back up by mass vaccination centres so let’s get it done. Despite all the things we are fighting for, community pharmacy should be a natural fit to respond to this national crisis. I believe we will part of the programme. But that will not happen when the vaccine is the Covid rate-limiting step in the process but when the number of vaccinators are and that can’t come soon enough for community pharmacy or the population.
I and my team will still fight the good fight to serve our patients and community as I am sure you will all do but away from Covid, the need to keep building our business is ever present, whilst our footfall is affected by another national lockdown.
However, what I enjoy about trying to grow the business is the feeling of success that brings, whether it is the busiest prescription month, (which is what December was for us). My pharmacist business partner Oliver has been qualified for two years and he sees the profession in such a positive way that it makes me want to be better.
It’s about how we can make a new service work rather if we should, how we grab that opportunity and turn it into something meaningful for our patients and our community and how we play our role within the health care system.
I wonder and worry about how we attract and retain the next best and the brightest into community pharmacy, how do we make it so that pharmacy ownership is something to aspire to, to want to have and make it accessible so that it can be achieved for the next generation.
I see in GP land the lack of desire for doctors to become partners and how that model will have to change and yet we need more Olivers to step forward, step up, shape and lead the sectors from the ground up.
Maybe the new consultation on integrated care systems will allow for more decision-making locally and this could be a massive win for local independent community pharmacy but a massive risk if we are not seen to be part of the solution of health care and health promotion and if cost is the only driving factor in decision-making rather than long-term thinking in what is the best way for our population to access healthcare.
So the New Year brings new challenges and some of the same old issues back to the fore. Although the Chinese New Year doesn’t start until February, I did notice this year is the year of the Ox or Bull and apparently people born in the Year of the Ox are hardworking and responsible.
They are not fond of showing their emotions and keep them bottled up inside. They don’t usually lose their temper but when they do, they can be very ferocious. I thought this sounded quite a lot like community pharmacy.
So in the year ahead l am going to keep fighting and looking for more ways to adapt and thrive, whilst trying to encourage and bring out the best in the people I work with and somewhere in there remember there is a life outside of pharmacy and Covid.
I just need to find it again.
Nick Kaye is a leading community pharmacist in Newquay and vice-chair of the National Pharmacy Association. These are his personal views.