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Vision and investment go together

Pharmacies have different business models but we need a vision to unify around so we can learn from each one, says Nick Kaye.

Community pharmacies have many different business models but we need a vision to unify around so that we can learn from the best of each, says Nick Kaye

In recent months, I have been travelling to different universities with my eldest son. We have been putting in the miles looking at schools of pharmacy. It has been an eye-opener for me to see these places as it has been over 20 years since I qualified.

The facilities the schools now have for teaching - from consulting rooms with microphones and cameras so everything can be played back and analysed, to the medical manakins for assessing vital signs - shows that every branch of pharmacy is doing things very differently to when I started.

But however exciting this is, the teaching must be relevant to the place where most of us will be practising, which is in a community setting. We absolutely cannot underplay how important the safe and effective supply of medicines is, but we must also be building that clinical future to allow the next generation to practice at the top of their skillset or they will not forgive us.

In England we can look at our colleagues in the other home nations to see the direction of travel within the community pharmacy. We have the opportunity to build on that crucial dispensing service whilst allowing a more clinical focus, or to allow community pharmacists to have the space to record those clinical interventions we have with patients every day.

Of course, ‘local’ can play its part in this process and lead to innovative developments such as the Cornwall walk-in service, where a person can just walk into a pharmacy and get seen in the consultation room by the pharmacist, with the pharmacy being paid for the service.

This service was started with winter pressures funding but has now been commissioned for the life of the clinical commissioning group until the end of June, with a request from the commissioner for a full business case to be put to the new integrated care board.

This is fantastic, and this type of innovation should be happening all over the country. What is needed in England is local investment in community pharmacy to be translated into national investment.

There is so much change planned for us over the next two years, and we must get this right, what with reviews of supervision, hub-and-spoke changes and the review steering group.

What is needed more than ever is a vision for community pharmacy to unify around. Community pharmacies have many different business models, but that can be a strength if we learn from the best of each.

If you have a commitment to the vision, then potential changes to the legal framework around community pharmacy looks less scary. Yet without that vison and a commitment of investment from the centre, all these things that are coming at us can look scary and threatening.

Is hub-and-spoke a way to free pharmacists’ time? Is it a threat to their dispensing margin? Are changes in supervision about allowing pharmacists to be in the consultation room more often to deliver new services? Or is it about remote supervision and a stripping out of costs?

Whatever your point of view right now, a commitment by government to invest across the sector would give you quite different perspective when answering those questions.

I have no doubt that as my eldest son prepares to start his pharmacy degree course in September - the fourth generation of our family to do so - he will have an amazing career.

I just hope community pharmacy will be a place where he will want to practice so that he can put his skills to the best possible use.


Nick Kaye is a community pharmacist based in Newquay and vice-chair of the National Pharmacy Association. These are his personal views.







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