Independent community pharmacy understands the needs of communities because it is part of those communities – but there are very real threats to its future.
These threats are not from governments, automation, hub-and-spoke, changes in supervision, or clinical pharmacists in GP practices – believe it or not, these are opportunities. The threats don’t even come from Brexit.
The real threat is a change in consumer behaviour and a failure of pharmacies to adapt to that change. We are mistaken if we believe citizens will continue to access pharmacies in the same way and for the same reasons they do now.
In the future citizens won’t access services from their pharmacy opportunistically when they collect their prescription; they will collect their prescription when they visit the pharmacy to access services. That is a subtle but important shift in emphasis.
That is why in Wales we have committed to transforming the contractual framework to recognise, value and remunerate contributions that play to the strengths of pharmacy professionals.
That transformation will be built around five key changes – what I call the five Cs:
So, in Wales in the immediate term, we are promoting pharmacies as part of the solution to the challenges citizens face in choosing and accessing the appropriate urgent and unscheduled health services in a timely way.
Our common ailment service is now available in over three-quarters of all pharmacies and will be enhanced by plans to roll out rapid antigen testing for sore throat and independent prescribing from community pharmacies.
In the medium term we must ensure pharmacies do more to tackle medicines-related harm. This is a shared problem in which prescribers and dispensers are complicit and it needs to be addressed.
In the longer term, pharmacies must get serious about prevention, by which I mean seriously taking every opportunity to change people’s behaviours in a positive way.