Changing the way community pharmacy delivers its value
In today’s connected world of instant and efficient service delivery, community pharmacy in the UK is at risk of being left behind as the delivery of NHS services becomes increasingly more digitised. As the only health care professionals who come into contact with healthy individuals as well as those living with longer term conditions, we must use our clinical and personal skills to deliver our USP! Prevention is key. It is a pivotal part of our profession. We must step up and deliver. We must keep an eye on what the NHS Long term Plan has in store for community pharmacy. All good and all dandy.
COVID19: Back in March last year, when the country was slowly waking up to the looming outbreak and potential lockdown due to CoronaVirus, the health service began the long and arduous process of putting stringent plans in place. The news and trajectory of how the disease had hit other countries put us in a slightly stronger position to predict and model how the outbreak may hit the U.K. So, the NHS prepared by building temporary hospitals, sourced ventilators, ordered PPE and deployed staff from other departments. Final year medics were pulled to the frontline. We clapped on Thursdays, we sang online and we prepared for a summer of uncertainty. The only healthcare professionals who remained open and stoic? Community pharmacists. This is testament to the resilience and dedication that have come to define how we just bounce back from adversity, funding cuts, giant competitors and now a novel virus! As the proverbial hit the fan, the pharmacy sector remained open for business as usual, with open doors, open hearts and open arms albeit from 2m away. My colleagues showed up to work, dressed in what could be loosely described as PPE, and delivered medicines, advice and support. One theme was also emerging very rapidly. The health inequalities that faced some communities whether they were based on socioeconomics, geographical location or race. As one close friend proclaimed “we are all in this storm together, it is just that some people are sailing in bigger and better boats’’ Looking ahead, we need to examine the way we deliver our value. We must outline our duties and responsibilities succinctly to the commissioners, design and curate our own solutions and put plans in place for when the NHS, PCNs and CCGs come calling for our specialist skills. We must lead our own sector and be our own cheerleaders. It did not go unnoticed when pharmacy was incessantly being missed when mentioning the response to the pandemic and who was left standing strong. We must consider ways to protect ourselves, our staff, and the local population. It is imperative that we consider adopting new ways of working, become more tech-enabled and offer frictionless access to our expertise. The one clear and as yet totally untested route is to offer e-consultations on a wider scale. A remote consultation via video link, live straight to and from our customers and patients’ smart devices. A means of recording all interventions and outcomes following OTC consultations. These are the interactions that go missed during the course of the day in every community pharmacy up and down the land. A recent survey published by the PSNC revealed that community pharmacies conducted 1 million consultations a week, but more evidence is needed. The report called for the sector to record outcomes and interventions. Time to support those who are self-isolating, shielding and/or simply unable to attend the pharmacy in person. Time to shine, show our true value and be ready with technology and services- being proactive rather than reactive.