Amid the Brexit chaos, our correspondent believes that community pharmacists need to focus on what they can control.

I had a wry laugh when I read through the letter from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on preparations for a ‘no deal’ Brexit. The only paragraph in bold text (introduction aside), and presumably the key message, was:

‘Hospitals, GPs and community pharmacies throughout the UK do not need to take any steps to stockpile additional medicines, beyond their business as usual stock levels. There is also no need for clinicians to write longer NHS prescriptions. Local stockpiling is not necessary and any incidences involving the over ordering of medicines will be investigated and followed up with the relevant Chief or Responsible Pharmacist directly.’

After the generics shortages of the past two years it looks like the Department has learned something about supply and demand, and how it can impact on the prices we – and eventually the NHS – have to pay.

And so there you have it: business as usual should March 2019 arrive without a deal with the EU. No need for me to consider getting extra stock on the shelves to tide the dispensing business over any transitional hiccups – not that I would get any thanks for my forward planning anyway. Rather the opposite, it would appear!

Only we all suspect it won’t work quite like that... and there’s the rub. It is quite proper for the Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to provide an update on the Government’s ongoing preparations for a ‘no deal’ scenario. But, like any general, he and his acolytes will only view the situation from behind the front line. You and I will feel enjoy the helpful feedback from Joe Public face to face!

Focusing on FMD

With the current situation so confusing, perhaps it is best to focus on things that we do have some measure of control over: that other bugbear on the horizon, the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD).

I don’t know who came up with this wheeze to prevent counterfeit medicines entering the legitimate medicines supply chain across Europe, but I hope they are satisfied with the sprawling infrastructure they have created and the massive costs that are being incurred.

If we are to remain aligned to the EU in matters of medicines regulation then I’ll just have to bite the bullet like everyone else, even though the whole scheme seems totally over the top.

Now we know that SecurMed UK is providing the UK end of the system, and that connectivity should be available any time now, the time has come to do something about FMD rather than moaning. I plan to venture to the Pharmacy Show in the hope of seeing what the FMD IT system suppliers have to offer.

The FMDsource.co.uk website shows that my PMR supplier provides a system and it is on the exhibitor list for the Show, so that will be my first stop. Apart from enabling me to comply with the Directive, it will be useful to see what benefits I can get out of the fact that every item dispensed will have to be scanned. That data alone should give me some useful information on stock usage and help improve re-ordering. Or am I being naïve in looking for a silver lining in something that will inevitably disrupt established working practices in the dispensary?

With five months or less to go before the 9 February deadline there are stories in the pharmacy press on a regular basis about the general lack of preparedness. Implementation could be fun, especially with the threat of sanctions for non-compliance!

Pharmacy Show prospects

Moving swiftly on... Having dipped into the exhibitor list for the Pharmacy Show I’ve decided to make a proper expedition to Birmingham this year. Last time I went to the Show was some years ago and I found the experience rather depressing, in that too many exhibitors did not reflect the sort of healthcare/retail sector I thought I was part of.

I gather things have improved since then, so I am looking upon this as a good opportunity to explore some potential business development ideas. Opportunities outside the NHS are something I think about on a reasonably regular basis. However, too often my good intentions get overtaken by the pressures of the daily grind.

With plans that have been on the back burner for too long, and a deadline to work to, this will be a good opportunity to do something about them. And if I’m honest, there is also a social aspect to the weekend that is as much of a draw as the Show itself. The danger here is that too much time in a Birmingham curry house on Saturday night will not lead to a sober, business-focussed Sunday.

Still, there is always the option of a quick nap – I rather fancy the 10.15am session in the keynote theatre, when the leaders of the main community pharmacy bodies in England will discuss the current state of relations with the DHSC and NHS England, and provide their take on what should happen next, now the appeal court has pronounced.

What should happen won’t, you can be sure of that!

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