Despite NHS England’s recent campaign Stay Well Pharmacy, which urged the public to use their local pharmacy, over 11,700 pharmacies in England are at risk of a funding epidemic. So what can be done to support our pharmacies asks Adrian Pittock…
The Department for Health proposed in 2016 that the funding for England’s pharmacies should be reduced by more than £200 million over the next two years. The decision has been based on reports that the number of pharmacies had increased by a fifth in the past 12 years, and nearly 40% are found within a 10-minute walk of one another. However, industry experts suggest that cuts at this scale could result in over a quarter of England’s pharmacies closing due to a lack of funds, with risk to those in rural areas at the highest. To help support our pharmacies in crisis, there are a number of actions local residents, industry suppliers and pharmacy staff can take.
Sharing the knowledge
The NHS as a whole is struggling to deal with the demand from patients for doctor or hospital appointments and all too often these are for non-urgent or minor ailments. By visiting your local pharmacy for advice and guidance on basic healthcare concerns, like the common cold or minor headaches, you will not only help lessen the strain on doctors’ surgeries and emergency departments, but you will be helping to increase the number of pharmacy customers, proving just how much your pharmacy is valued and needed.
Suppliers to the pharmacy industry play a vital role in supporting local pharmacies from risk of closure. By providing cost-effective products that create an increasingly efficient environment that supports further cost saving opportunities, pharmacies will be able to save money and prove they are viable. As the proposed funding cuts are suggesting a change towards a performance-based funding model, this is going to be more important than ever as we move forward.At Valley Northern, supporting the core needs of our clients is at the heart of everything that we do. This is why we’ve developed products like the ProBox range of cartons and carton dispensers, which standardises medication packaging procedures and saves pharmacies valuable man-hours in packaging patient’s medicines.
Caring for the community
Pharmacies around the country offer a lifeline to some of the most vulnerable people living in our society, particularly those in rural areas. Other than providing advice on general healthcare issues, pharmacies provide human contact to people who may be suffering from loneliness and may go days without any other human interaction. For staff working within community pharmacies, it is important to maintain levels of customer care and support through every interaction. By offering a level of service that people can rely on in terms of both knowledge and comfort, people are more likely to turn to their friendly local pharmacist for initial consultation and build a brand loyalty that will encourage repeat business.
More than medicine
Community pharmacy teams also provide expert advice clinics on topics like healthy eating, stopping smoking and maintaining a healthy heart. By providing these services at pharmacy level, rather than through a GP appointment, the strain on the NHS system is eased, making pharmacies an extremely important extension of the healthcare system across England. Our pharmacies are definitely more than just a dispensary service. With community pharmacies offering more than bottles of pills, it is important throughout this time of uncertainty and proposed funding cuts that we all show as much support as possible. Whether this is in the form of simply making better use of our local pharmacy as individuals, or whether it is a supplier going the extra mile to provide pharmacies with the tools to weather the storm, we have to act now to keep our pharmacies open.
Adrian Pittock is marketing director of Valley Northern, a pharmacy and healthcare supplier.