It is a privilege to serve the community pharmacy sector

Opinion

It is a privilege to serve the community pharmacy sector

The NPA’s 100th anniversary this year coincides with a period of time that may well be seen as pharmacy’s proudest hour, says chairman Andrew Lane.

Since starting life as the Retail Pharmacists Union in 1921, the NPA has brought community pharmacists together and given a voice and practical support to many thousands of pharmacies across the UK.

Our mission today is to help independent pharmacies succeed professionally and commercially, speaking up for them and supporting them to provide excellent patient care.

Arguably, the challenge for us and for pharmacy teams has never been greater than it is today against the formidable backdrop of Covid-19. This is clearly one of the biggest health crises to have faced the pharmacy sector, the NHS and the nation at large. So today, more than ever in our long history, it is a privilege to serve the community pharmacy sector.

Looking forward

A centenary year provides an opportunity to recall the achievements of the past. It is also a prompt to look forward, into the short, medium and long-term future.

It would be foolish to try to predict exactly what the next 100 years will bring but it is certain that community pharmacy will need to evolve continually to meet the ever-changing needs of the patients we serve.

Accordingly, the NPA will be holding consultations with our members about the future business and practice of independent community pharmacy. Our starting point is that pharmacies need to be progressive and modern, while at the same time being true to the historic values of pharmacy as a personal, caring profession.

We want to see tech-enabled community pharmacies, better integrated with other health services, operating efficiently as neighbourhood health and wellbeing centres, providing excellent patient care and recognised as being the front door to the NHS. It must be a clinical future, or no future at all.

This is a vision grounded in reality that is respectful of the past but ambitious about the years ahead.

There will be renewed efforts to recruit the next generation of pharmacists (in partnership with other pharmacy bodies) and to engage pharmacy students. We will be showcasing the work of outstanding young pharmacists around the country, illustrating that community pharmacy can be an attractive and rewarding profession.

Detailed discussions

Back to the delivery of patient care right now: we have been in detailed discussions with ministers and senior officials about the Covid-19 vaccination programme. The consensus is rapidly building that community pharmacy can play an increasingly key role in winning this latest, and hopefully decisive, battle against the virus.

This follows many months of unstinting service by pharmacy teams on the health service frontline since the pandemic hit these shores. In the history books 100 years from now, this period may well be seen as community pharmacy’s darkest hour – but also its proudest.

Community pharmacy must have a clinical future or there is no future at all

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