The 2014 Pharmacy Business Awards will be presided over by a strong panel of expert judges, who will be tasked with assessing the merits of community pharmacy contenders from across the UK.
The Pharmacy Business Awards were presented by Dr Dan Poulter, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Ramniklal Solanki CBE, Editor in Chief Pharmacy Business Awards
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The 2014 Pharmacy Business Awards showcased the best community pharmacy has to offer a strained NHS...and offered a notable tribute from a very high profile guest....
A night awash with tributes carried one tribute that caught the attention arguably more than any other.
It arrived moments before 11 awards were handed out to community pharmacists who had excelled in their attempts to improve the health and well-being of their local populations across the UK.
"I want to say that this morning I've got three children under five and they're all full of coughs and colds," Jeremy Hunt said as he stood on a stage in a large room packed with pharmaceutical luminaries at the Park Plaza Hotel in Westminster, including the likes of Ash Soni, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Rob Darracott, chief executive of Pharmacy Voice.
"And unfortunately last night I spent the whole night coughing and spluttering and splurging and I got up this morning and I thought 'as Health Secretary, shall I ask one of those incredibly distinguished consultants that surround me every day of the week at Richmond House? No. Shall I go to my GP? No. I'm going to go to a pharmacist.'"
It was not exactly the kind of endorsement those with a vested interest in community pharmacy in the room were looking for but at least it was something.
After all, barely a word about the benefits of community pharmacy had passed the Health Secretary's lips during the little over two years since he assumed the role from his predecessor Andrew Lansley, that pro-pharmacy minister who had failed to clearly convey his revolutionary NHS reforms to the great British public.
The underwhelming, if somewhat patronising, admission that pharmacy was the Health Secretary's first port of call for a pack of Lemsip or cough medicine had been preceded by something a little more meatier. No doubt next year's general election was preying on his mind.
"We need a culture of safety and compassionate care in the NHS and what I really wanted to say is that pharmacists have an incredibly important role to play in all parts of that plan," was how Hunt had begun his rather brisk speech.
"When it comes to treating people out of hospital, I heard you could probably cope with 20% of GP visits and 8% of A&E visits. And we need to increase our capacity dramatically to look after people better out of hospital and you are incredibly accessible over very, very long hours.
"You are a very, very important part of that plan. When it comes to innovation and technology, I think we've only just started to scratch the surface in the NHS but I would love pharmacists to be able to access GP medical records with their permission so they can see people's medication history and give them even better advice than you already do.
"And that's something we've been having very helpful discussions with the pharmacy industry about.
"And when it comes to creating the right culture, apart from the wonderfully caring and supportive service that you give to millions of people day in day out, I think pharmacists really understand the issue of safety and the rather shocking fact that, in the last year, more than 40 people died in England in the NHS because they were given the wrong medicines.
"Pharmacists understand how important it is to understand about allergies and that's why I think it will then fill you in to the broader NHS offer and that's an incredibly important thing for us to do and is something that I'm really determined to pursue.
"I want to thank you for your efforts. There's such huge opportunities tapping into what you have to offer as we get our NHS to go from strength to strength and deal with the challenges of an ageing population amid really tough financial circumstances."
The ageing population theme had been taken up by Shailesh Solanki, executive editor of Pharmacy Business, who said: "The NHS is struggling to cope with increasing demand from an ageing population. We must therefore find new ways to treat the health of this demanding population.
"So the election next year is an opportunity to showcase pharmacy at its very best. With over 1.2 million visits to community pharmacies every day no other healthcare profession is better placed to engage the public about their health and wellbeing.
"Community pharmacies operating at the heart of our communities can really make every contact count. And they can make every contact count at a fraction of the current cost of visiting a GP."
Solanki continued: "The Prime Minister announced that all GP surgeries will remain open 12 hours a day, seven days a week by 2020. Now this may be a popular move with the public...the reality is that GPs are facing an increasing workload, a recruitment crisis and rising costs for consultations.
"A staggering 50 million GP visits are for common ailments such as coughs and colds which cost the NHS an estimated £2 billion each year. "The majority of these ailments could be effectively treated in community pharmacy and relieve the burden in general practice, freeing GPs to better support secondary care. "Community pharmacy's interaction with patients makes them ideally placed to treat these and a host of other conditions."
The £2.8 billion funding settlement for 2014-15, which amounted to an increase in the global sum, was to be welcomed, Solanki said. But he cautioned that the government needed to invest more in pharmacy. "Pharmacy is showcasing its value and it can play an even bigger role in public health. But this can only happen with increased investment from the Government. Earlier this month the Government announced the latest funding settlement for pharmacy after long and complex negotiations. The global sum for pharmacy has been increased to £2.8 billion. "Whilst this increase is welcome the stark reality when the numbers are crunched is that most pharmacies will be losing an average of around £870 a year.
"We recognise that we are still living in times of austerity and the NHS is facing a severe budget crisis. But in reality, by investing in pharmacy the NHS can and will save money." It was, of course, an evening to rejoice in all that is great about community pharmacy as much as it was to fret about the future. Community pharmacies were recognised for their contribution to public health over the last 12 months. Rohpharm Pharmacy in east London took the headline Pharmacy Business of the Year award while Old School Pharmacy in Bristol won the Medicines Optimisation Award.
The Community Award went to Putney Pharmacy, Priory Pharmacy in Dudley won the Public Health Pharmacist Award and Benjamin Chemist secured the Pharmacy Team Award.
And the awards kept coming. Day Lewis Pharmacy in Colchester won the Patient Services Award, Sousana Patiolioli was named Pre-Reg Trainee of the Year, Bannside Pharmacy in County Antrim were Natural Healthcare Pharmacy of the Year, Borth Pharmacy took the Innovation Award and Margaret Kendrew at Pateley Bridge Pharmacy in Harrogate won the Pharmacy Assistant Award. The Enterprise Award went to Hodgson Pharmacy in Longfield.
OTC Brand of the Year went to Voltarol, Innovation in Generics Branded Manufacturer of the Year was Bristol Laboratories, the Branded Manufacturer of the Year Award went to GSK while Teva UK were Generic Manufacturer of the Year.
There was also a richly deserved accolade for Mike Smith, the chairman of Alliance Healthcare, who was handed the Editor's Award for his outstanding contribution to pharmacy during a career spanning almost 50 years.