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Insight: What does 2023 hold for us?


Insight: What does 2023 hold for us?

I have to believe that 2023 is going to be a better year for all of us. I don’t have anything to base this on, just blind hope and optimism. Sometimes that is enough...

Congratulations. You survived one of the most difficult years in pharmacy — 2022 was an absolute shocker and with pressures mounting from all sides, it is easy to forget that you have made a positive difference to the lives of your patients, your team and your community.

For every patient you have helped, give yourself a pat on the back, and for each that you weren’t able to assist, don’t beat yourself up. Mental and emotional resilience are key tools for everyone in pharmacy, because the expectations from patients these days are now so out of kilter with what is easily achievable. 

With every pronouncement from the NHS that patients should seek the advice of their pharmacist, to the latest Facebook rumour telling patients to come directly to you for antibiotics, the demands continue to rise alarmingly. 


When I look back on the number of items we dispensed last year, I don’t think it was massively different from the year before or the year before that – but it is the intensity that is different. Everything takes so much longer. 

A simple prescription for liquid antibiotics used to be a three to five minute job to reconstitute, dispense and counsel the patient. Now it has turned into an epic saga, checking the serious shortage protocols, discussing with the patient or having to call the practice (which usually means 20 minutes on hold) to discuss alternatives when using a SSP isn’t possible. 

If you can eventually get through to the surgery, the chances are it won’t actually action the thing you are calling them about or will end up getting it wrong. I’ve taken to dealing with some problems by asking the practice to retrospectively sort it out with a call or email to one of the (many) PCN pharmacists.

“I am close to disconnecting the phone altogether”

Nuisance calls

Then there’s the phone. If I get one more call asking if a patient’s prescription is there, I’m going to scream. It is incredibly frustrating spending hours every day answering the phone and responding to this simple question. 

Yes, I know it is also frustrating for patients when they turn up and their prescription isn’t ready, but we can either spend all day dispensing the prescriptions that have come through, or we can spend all day answering the phone telling patients if their prescription has or hasn’t arrived. We get thousands and thousands of calls each month and I am close to disconnecting the phone altogether. 

This should be a simple tech fix. If we could use EPS status messages to notify the patient when a script has been dispensed via the NHS app, this whole problem could go away. 

Back in the good old days, and I’m probably only talking about six years ago when patients used to walk in and ask for their prescription, the chances are that it would have come through as a paper FP10 from the surgery once a day. Now, when a patient says they have a prescription, I have to work through an algorithm that is getting more and more complex. Who sent it? When did they send it? How did they send it? 

I spend my life on the EPS Prescription Tracker, copying barcodes to see if this is the prescription the patient is looking for – and after 20 minutes of searching, it turns out that they collected it two days ago and off they swan without so much as an apology for wasting our precious time.

I have to believe that 2023 is going to be a better year for all of us in community pharmacy. Misery is contagious, so having vented at you, I’m going to try and stay positive through this year and look for the green shoots of new life that are undoubtedly on their way as we approach the spring. Good luck. I’ve got a feeling we are going to need it!

What do you predict will happen to pharmacy in 2023? Email

*Alexander Humphries is the pen name of a practising community pharmacist. The views in this article are not necessarily those of Pharmacy Magazine.

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