England should take leaf out of Wales' pharmacy book

Reflecting on the success of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) conference recently held in association with Welsh Pharmacy Review made me think about what other nations are doing community pharmacy-wise given the flexibility they have to determine their direction because of different political and organisational structures, writes Claire Ward.

While English pharmacy representative bodies spent two years in conflict with its only customer and pay master, only relatively recently under new leadership building a better relationship, contractors in Wales and Scotland have seen increased investment.

Wales has a much smaller community pharmacy footprint with about 720 contractors. Geography between the different communities means the NHS has to organise differently. But despite its relatively small size, they still deliver 75 million prescriptions every year – too high said the chief pharmacist.

The challenge is actually to reduce that number to provide a better outcome for patients in the shift of emphasis from supply to services – the theme of the conference.

What was also strikingly apparent from the conference’s line-up was the nature of relationships between the various influential parts and people determining the direction of pharmacy in Wales.

Speakers included the Minister for Health Vaughan Gething, chief pharmacist Andrew Evans, the PDA’s Mark Koziol and Russell Goodway, CEO of Community Pharmacy Wales.

For those outside of Wales, some of those names might not mean too much. The significance lies in the relationships between the organisations. The audience was a mixture of contractors, independent and multiples, locums, employees, student pharmacists, NHS and companies that form vital parts of the pharmacy supply chain eager to understand the direction for community pharmacy.

And it was not just the people who were there. It was the interaction and what they had to say about the future of pharmacy.

The minister was emphatically pro-pharmacy. Not just words but deeds as he announced more money to help train 50 pharmacists to deliver a specialist minor ailments service. When pharmacy in England faced cuts, Wales ring-fenced funding and challenged pharmacy to deliver more to access these funds.

Goodway was emphatic that community pharmacy must be responsive to the demands of the NHS. There is little point in contractors saying they want to focus on what they have traditionally been doing when the world around them is shifting and the customer wants a different product and service.

His understanding of the relationship needed with the NHS and politicians is partly what has built a very open and collaborative relationship that clearly exists between him, the chief pharmacist and the minister.

The PDA presented its vision for a more joined-up approach to delivering patient care with the skills of pharmacists in various locations being utilised to best effect. Koziol outlined plans to develop a model that would showcase the skills and expertise of pharmacists and the value of community pharmacy, irrespective of who owns the contract.

Contractors in the audience spoke about how they wanted to deliver more services, become independent prescribers and the need to ensure those skills are seen as common practice.

If you are an English contractor, try to imagine that line-up at a conference in London.

There are challenges in Wales. Contractors remain unhappy about aspects of delivery and change. Negotiations can and will continue to be difficult.

But there is so much that can be learned about its approach to the relationships that have been built between individuals and invested in for the benefit of pharmacy and patients.

 

 

Claire Ward is director of public affairs at the Pharmacists’ Defence Association.

 

 

 

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