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Smart thinking will keep us one step ahead

Bush Pharmacy in Shepherd’s Bush was the winner of the Best Independent Community Pharmacy Healthcare Innovation Award at this year’s SMART Awards. So what does manager Sailesh Pindolia think makes his pharmacy a winner in these difficult times for the sector?

Our SMART Award is testament to all the hard work everyone at Bush Pharmacy has put in, year after year. Having been runner-up several times in some other schemes, it is so rewarding to have finally won. As they say, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again! Certainly, that is the ethos we have followed for over 35 years, and what has driven us to evolve and keep abreast of change.

Our success at Bush Pharmacy is based on always putting the patients’ needs first. An old cliché, I know, but one that has seen us being chosen to pilot many new services, from alcohol behavioural counselling to stroke screening.

Enjoyment

We enjoy what we do and this is mirrored by the great feedback from our patients. I am immensely proud of what we have achieved so far, but there is no resting on our laurels as we strive to improve and add to the plethora of services already available.

We are currently looking to set up an anticoagulation clinic, so patients don’t need to wait for days to get their INR tested. They can simply drop into the pharmacy and get their levels checked and change their warfarin regimen accordingly.

What we do at Bush Pharmacy is being done in pharmacies up and down the country, but the difference is those pharmacies have not received the recognition they deserve. I hope us winning the award will inspire others and that sooner or later somebody will notice all the hard work they do.

Labelling machines?

One problem we all face is getting people to understand what we do. Many years ago, I saw a cartoon of a patient demanding to know how long it takes to put a label on a box of tablets, to which the pharmacist replied that the labelling takes only a few seconds but what takes longer is ensuring the medicine did not kill him.

This notion that a community pharmacist is simply a labelling machine is so frustrating. We are skilled clinicians who have studied for five gruelling years to get to where we are… so why waste our skill-set selling toiletries and shampoos? If we do not embrace what we have learnt and use our clinical skills to help our patients, the attitude of that cartoon patient will remain the attitude of both the public and, unfortunately, the Government too.

That said, the general perception of pharmacies does appear to be changing. We are now being recognised for our clinical knowledge, with patients opting to see a pharmacist over a GP simply because we have time to listen and dispense good advice.

If the Government appreciated all that pharmacists can offer, then maybe it would not think of reducing our funding by £170m but actually invest more. The whole strategy to cut funding lacks proper thought and is a huge contradiction. On the one hand we are urged to help save the NHS money by way of MURs and the NMS – but if funding is cut, there will be fewer pharmacies to implement these cost-saving strategies. And what timing!

We are now on the cusp of summary care record access going live, which will enable us to not only reduce things like drug-on-drug interactions, but will also increase the quality of our care as we will have direct access to patient records. Surely this is a time to invest in pharmacy, not enforce cuts that will set the sector back and have a disastrous effect on patient care.

Time and time again I am reminded about how patients should first visit a pharmacist before a GP to reduce the burden on doctors. Many a time I have been able to solve patients’ problems without them needing to visit a GP. However, if our funding is taken away, I will have a lower budget to spend on staffing and other resources. This will mean I’ll have less time for these patients and have little choice but to send them to their doctor.

Pull together

Pharmacists must all rally around the pharmacy flag and show everybody what we are made of. Now is not the time to be quiet and hope the pharmacist down the road will take up the cause on your behalf. For the sake of our livelihoods and our patients, we must fight these cuts and not let a shambolic cost-cutting exercise send pharmacy back into the dark ages.

Pharmacists must all rally around the flag and show everybody what we are made of

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