One of the biggest challenges facing community pharmacy was overcoming a conflicting relationship with the GP surgery as both were “fighting for the same pot of money,” a leading community pharmacist has said.
Indira Panchal, who owns four pharmacies in Bedford, was speaking on Thursday in London at a press briefing organized by the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIM) to launch its vision under the leadership of the new CEO, Leyla Hannbeck.
Panchal, also a pharmacist independent prescriber, said when it came to delivering services like flu jabs – which have been great for independent community pharmacy – she has known GPs surgeries that have tried to “dissuade” patients from “coming into a pharmacy.”
The NHS, according to her, should make community pharmacy the first port of call for flu jabs because people who need the service would happily come to a pharmacy where they wouldn’t need to book an appointment, days or weeks in advance.
Day Lewis Director Jay Patel agreed with Panchal and said despite a £1b increase in funding via the new national contract agreed earlier this year, GP surgeries were “either leveraging us (community pharmacy) for doing their services for nothing, or just stripping our workforce.”
To a question on how the sector was dealing with meeting the government’s push for “efficiency” to get the “best value out of medicines and pharmacy,” Patel said pharmacy has always “been incentivised to make efficiencies” and that the “biggest beneficiary of pharmacy efficiency is the pharmacy owner.”
He believed the focus on technology was also misplaced because “technology is not a silver bullet, there are people and processes” to be mindful of.
He said the so-called inefficiencies were actually down to the changes in new “systems and tools” which a pharmacist “has absolutely no control of.”
Dispensing used to be much easier 10-15 years ago when a pharmacy would receive a prescription, put it in a box and send it off, he added.
Indira said putting robust systems in place was the most obvious way around efficiency for pharmacy.
Earlier, Hannbeck told pharmacy journalists that her job was to help AIM’s members understand how to manage the “many changes” the wider community pharmacy sector was currently going through.
She said over the coming months AIM will focus on offering members practical result-oriented solutions which also deliver best professional practice around several topics that are of interest to the membership. These areas will include management of branded generics, prescription direction, workforce development and meeting the challenges of the ever-evolving digital agenda.
She added that as well as dealing with everyday issues around how to work well within the Primary Care Network and deliver Urgent Care services and the new Community Pharmacist Consultation Service, a working group of the association would examine the practicalities around Hub and Spoke, including costs, workforce and equipment – an area of growing concern for AIM members.