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Let pharmacies get stuck in with Covid vaccination

Pharmacies have played a critical role in the pandemic so far. They must be a major part of the national vaccination effort, says Pharmacy Magazine editor Richard Thomas

25 years of PM: One hell of a ride

It is 25 years since the first issue of Pharmacy Magazine was published. Much has changed, but some things are timeless, says editor Richard Thomas  

The GPhC must answer difficult questions

The GPhC is suddenly in the spotlight. After displaying flexibility and responsiveness with many of its actions during the Covid crisis, it now finds itself facing difficult questions on several fronts. 

Is the Government serious about expanding pharmacy’s role?

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine Regulation is an expensive business these days, it would appear, if the GPhC’s proposal to raise the annual premises fee by nearly 40 per cent is anything to go by. What caught our eye was a finding buried in the accompanying impact assessment, which suggested that over half the pharmacies in the research sample are operating at a deficit. Confirmation, if any were needed, that the pharmacy sector is “demonstrating a notable fragility” (in the words of Ernst & Young) was provided by a slew of headlines in recent weeks concerning the financial tribulations of Boots, LloydsPharmacy and Pharmacy2U.

Exodus to general practice threatens continuity of care

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine It is a well established principle that continuity of care – seeing the same health professional over time – improves patient outcomes. It is something pharmacists, embedded in their local communities, instinctively recognise in their day-to-day practice. Commissioners understand this as well. In Wales, for example, the chief pharmacist Andrew Evans has said on several occasions that the NHS should value continuity and reward those pharmacies that deliver it.

Funding settlement is a leap of faith

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine Is the new contractual framework in England a good deal or a bad one for community pharmacy? Rather like Orthrus, the two-headed dog in Greek mythology with each head pointing in a different direction, there are two diametrically opposed views on this. Both are represented in this issue, from “total disaster” on the one hand to “best hope of changing our fortunes” on the other.

Celtic nations streets ahead on community pharmacy

By Richard Thomas, Editor, Pharmacy Magazine The contract talks between PSNC and the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England remain shrouded in secrecy but some strong clues are beginning to emerge. Pharmacy’s negotiators are pushing hard for a multi-year settlement like the one the GPs have, while urgent care is a key priority for the NHS as underlined in the Long Term Plan. A national minor illness referral service is very much on the cards. The Scottish and Welsh Governments recognised some time ago the benefits that such schemes offer patients and the NHS, so it is good to see England catching up at last. However, where Scotland and Wales diverge from England is over medicines optimisation in long-term conditions.

Trumpesque goings-on at NHS England conference

By Richard Thomas, Editor, Pharmacy Magazine This month’s Chief Pharmaceutical Officer’s conference had an interesting and forward-looking programme. Exploring the role of pharmacy in the NHS Long Term Plan, there were sessions on using data to improve care quality, pharmacogenomics and wellness through social prescribing. Exactly the sort of progressive agenda that community pharmacists are forever being urged to engage with and, as such, highly relevant to our readership. We would like to tell you more – but unfortunately we can’t.

Scotland and the £2.592bn question

By Richard Thomas, Editor, Pharmacy Magazine Pharmacists in England have long cast their gaze enviously towards their colleagues north of the border. A smaller population, shorter lines of communication and greater alignment between the profession and those in power are obvious advantages. However, there is a clarity and sense of direction regarding pharmacy in Scotland that is completely lacking in England.

Boots left the door open to union victory

By Richard Thomas, Editor, Pharmacy Magazine The overwhelming vote by Boots pharmacists to recognise the PDA Union after a bitter dispute lasting nearly eight years could have implications not only at the UK’s biggest pharmacy chain but also sector-wide. It was a crushing defeat for senior managers at Boots, who badly misjudged their response from the very start, and a stunning victory for the PDA.

How was FMD Day for you?

So how was FMD Day for you? The EU’s anticounterfeit regulations finally came into force on February 9 but, despite some glitches, it passed largely without incident. This was mainly because currently only a small proportion of packs have the new safety features – probably fewer than one in five – and most pharmacies missed the deadline for a variety of logistical reasons.

Light on detail, wide in scope – Long Term Plan a threat or an opportunity?

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine There is much in the NHS Long Term Plan that is encouraging. Plenty of mentions of pharmacists, albeit mostly of the ‘clinical’ kind – of which more later. However, community pharmacists are emphasised as key players in urgent care and prevention and there is the usual commitment to make greater use of their skills and opportunities to engage patients.

More tales of Yuletide woe but let's raise a glass to pharmacy

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine. Christmas and the New Year is traditionally a time of hope and renewal, but, as the prescriptions pile up, it is hard for pharmacists to feel any sense of optimism. We await the Government’s long-term plan for the NHS, but in the meantime the funding cuts are really taking their toll in the form of squeezed cashflow, job losses, reduced services, shelved investments and poor morale.  

Hancock makes prevention his mantra – but have we been here before?

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine The health secretary has thrown his weight behind the modèle français for community pharmacy and made ill health prevention his driving ambition. This isn't the first time the Government has spoken of the need to focus on prevention rather than cure. Will things be different this time around?

Pharmacists and patients have been let down by flu jab shambles

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine Those curmudgeons who harp on about pharmacists’ supposed inability to adapt or deliver at scale should be pointed to the national flu vaccination service. In just three seasons, community pharmacies have become the preferred choice for many wanting a jab, both private and NHS. Last year pharmacists carried out 1.3 million vaccinations, no appointment necessary, with patients raving about the convenience and accessibility on offer. Researchers proved it was cost-effective, the fee was increased, the service specification widened – what could possibly go wrong?

Rebalancing board proposals should be considered calmly

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine The consultation on clarifying the legal obligations of responsible pharmacists and superintendent pharmacists, which closed earlier this month, prompted some predictable caterwauling and finger pointing on social media. Whether the work of the rebalancing board is a stalking horse for remote supervision or a genuine attempt to come up with a regulatory and legislative framework to underpin modern pharmacy practice remains to be seen.

NAO investigation and RPS report on mental health – some reflections

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine. This month saw the publication of two major reports, polar opposites in terms of scope and purpose, yet each with potentially significant implications for the sector. The National Audit Office investigation into last year’s unprecedented hike in generics prices runs to 28 pages and contains a wealth of detail and market analysis – but little in the way of meaningful explanation.

Are our pharmacy bodies still fit for purpose?

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine. In these difficult times for the sector, our representative bodies should be firing on all cylinders as never before. Yet are they? Community pharmacy continues to have little meaningful impact on policy in the corridors of power despite what Sandra Gidley says in a recent interview in Pharmacy Magazine. The fact there are no community pharmacy representatives on Jeremy Hunt’s working group on medication safety is just the latest example of this, while the gap between the profession’s leaders and pharmacists at the coalface seems wider than ever.

Election fever and equality issues for the NPA

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine. It’s election time. The NPA has a new board – more on that later – and voting in the RPS English, Welsh and Scottish Pharmacy Board elections will open on April 30. Twitter is alive with election chat. Candidates’ views are scrutinised and challenged like never before, opinions exchanged, arguments fought out. It’s li  

Workload pressures are a sector-wide issue and need to be addressed

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine. I spent an hour recently in a dispensary waiting to interview the pharmacist. It was mayhem. That is by no means being derogatory to the highly organised pharmacist, who was on top of her game, or her excellent (and sufficient in numbers) support staff. It was simply the sheer number of demands she was juggling as the tumult raged around her. It was humbling and rather scary.

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