Chief Executive’s blog: December 2020

Chief Executive’s blog: December 2020

“Pharmacy has risen to the challenge despite the very patchy nature of Government support”

By Chief Executive Simon Dukes

As we approach the end of a very long and difficult year for all of us, I am yet again tempted to comment on the now appallingly unacceptable delay in Government decision-making for two crucial funding bids for our sector; the apparent unconcern about the effect of this uncertainty on the financial and mental wellbeing of contractors; and the lack of understanding amongst officialdom of what community pharmacy does (and can do). However, I am not going to do so. Whilst not diminishing the importance of these issues, instead I want to say something about the incredible way that community pharmacy has risen to the unprecedented health challenge we have faced (and still face) – despite the very patchy nature of Government support – and what message our ‘customers’ should read from it.

If there is any doubt lingering within DHSC as to whether community pharmacy is ‘healthcare’ or ‘retail’, the selfless manner in which the sector has served its patients has answered this question: maintaining dispensing services in the face of many operational challenges; reassuring anxious and at times abusive patients; and delivering a (non-funded) walk-in minor ailment service desperately needed by our citizens. Whilst other healthcare providers focussed their attentions on patients with COVID-19 or moved to remote services, community pharmacy teams implemented social distancing and other protective measures so the public still had somewhere to go for face-to-face healthcare advice and to receive their medicines.

If there is any confusion remaining within NHSE&I as to whether community pharmacy is innovative, look no further than the resilience shown by the sector: managing an immense workload with limited staff; sourcing its own PPE; modifying working practices to keep staff and patients safe while delivering services for which there was an increasing demand; and grappling with the shambles of Test and Trace and social distancing measures. Doing all of this while not being granted in a timely fashion simple measures which would help pharmacies cope with these operational pressures like closed-door working. Despite everything that was thrown at the sector, you have all carried on serving the patients and communities who need you.

If there are any concerns enduring within HM Treasury as to whether community pharmacy is a good return on investment, look at the dispensing data and the fact that England has the lowest drug prices in the world thanks to community pharmacy; listen to local NHS professionals talking about how much the new Discharge Medicines Service will save Hospital Trusts; and read the PSNC pharmacy audit: 500,000 patients every week, who would have gone to see their GPs, are walking into their local pharmacy for (non-funded) health advice, guidance and signposting on to other primary care services – saving the NHS significant sums every year. More investment into the sector will enable community pharmacy to do even more – at a fraction of the cost of alternative solutions.

I sincerely hope 2021 will have some positive movement on all three of these areas with colleagues from NHSE&I, DHSC and HM Treasury. The patient voice is very clear as recent NPA surveys have shown. But those of you who have worked within our sector for much longer than me will rightly be cynical, and I can’t blame you for it.

For the vast majority of sectors in this country, end of year messages are along the lines of: ” … thank you for your endeavours and hope you all get a well-earned rest over the Christmas break etc etc …” However, for community pharmacy, your graft continues throughout the end of December – in some cases heightened – as we enter into a worrying phase of the pandemic and the uncertainty surrounding our departure from the EU: frightened patients; staff concerned about their own well-being and that of their families; demand for pharmacy services soaring; and potential supply issues needing to be managed – all with a continued backdrop of financial uncertainty.

So my end of year message is simply this. I and my team at PSNC and the entire Committee are immensely proud to serve our extraordinary community pharmacy sector. As we have done in 2020, we will do everything we can to support you in the year ahead. Thank you for everything you have done this year and continue to do on behalf of all of us.

More New Blog Posts >