Chief Executive’s blog: November 2020

Chief Executive’s blog: November 2020

“Who better to start to provide flu vaccinations for the working population aged 50-64 than pharmacies?”

By Chief Executive Simon Dukes

For the past few months in this blog we have focused, quite rightly, on COVID-19. That work remains our focus – particularly trying to ensure your costs are covered and that the NHS agrees to our long list of changes that would make your lives easier –  but this month I was also asked by Pharmacy Business to speak about my longer term ambitions for the sector, and I wanted to share some of that thinking. The topic was timely, given all the recent positive news about vaccines, and I was pleased to see a poll of their conference delegates showing that many contractors remain, despite all the challenges at the moment, optimistic about the future. I do agree there are opportunities to come.

So what will this first glimmer of good news, the COVID-19 vaccinations, mean for pharmacy? The honest answer is that at the moment, it looks like the Pfizer vaccine will have limited impact on our sector. The logistics read like something from a sci-fi film, and there is simply no way that most pharmacies will be able to turn their retail areas into a vaccination clinic that sees practically 200 people per day and also allows them to stay safely socially distanced.

Instead we must look to the PCNs. We must do whatever we can to help them.  And, crucially, we must be ready to jump in with a proposal the moment that we have a vaccine that looks easier to manage. We have evidence of the impact we can make from our fantastic flu season – at this point we have already vaccinated more people in community pharmacy than ever before (1.9m people – a fantastic effort). And we must use that to make our case.

COVID-19 testing, too, is an area in which I see a potential key role for community pharmacies in the future, particularly if the Prime Minister’s vision for same-day testing to be available via Test and Trace in the New Year comes to fruition. A pilot is already underway, and we must continue to position the sector to be able to do this, as our accessibility to the public is second to none.

And what of our ambitions for the sector beyond the pandemic?

The good news is that there are opportunities afoot. I know many of you are struggling to access extra flu vaccinations right now, but we do understand that supply from central Government will start to flow more quickly, and who better to start to vaccinate the working population aged 50-64 than the pharmacies that this age group walk into as a matter of routine? Why shouldn’t the vast majority of this new cohort of patients to receive their vaccination in a pharmacy?

And that is not just an ambition about jabbing as many people as we can – although of course I would urge all contractors to do so – but it is also about progressing our relationships with GPs and trying to seek a truly collaborative approach to this and to all vaccination programmes. Surely one positive the legacy of this pandemic must be that the days of competition within the health service are left behind us: we must play our part in trying to attain that vision.

As a sector we also have a lot to play for in the rollout of new CPCF services as set out in the five-year deal last summer. Yes, some of those have been delayed, but the pandemic has not halted progress. It is my hope that by this time next year we will be starting to see the results of that ambitious service development programme. We should by then have seen the success of GP referrals to the CPCS and I hope this will be a care pathway well-walked by patients. Alongside that we also want to see pharmacies paid for all the advice they give on a walk-in basis. And I hope to see some positive results from the Discharge Medicines Service in 2021 as well.

All of this will be good for patients, the NHS and community pharmacy.  But none of this can happen without a positive resolution on those two outstanding funding bids for a write-off of the £370m and a similar addition to the CPCF contract sum for 2021/22 and beyond. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and Sir Simon Stevens – it’s over to you.

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