The Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) has published a ‘pharmacy paradox paper’ which outlines how community pharmacy can match the ambition amidst the workforce crisis.
The sector is experiencing a workforce crisis, exacerbated by NHS recruitment of community pharmacists into primary care networks. Pharmacies are also facing a significant increase in demand on services.
CCA said, “A stretched and reduced pharmacy workforce is having to deliver more and more. This is unsustainable.”
“Unless the tension between ambition and capacity is addressed, there is a risk that community pharmacies will not only not meet their potential, but the existing offer could be compromised.”
Therefore, the association has set out solutions to resolve the current paradox between ambition and reality.
CCA’s pharmacy paradox paper suggests reforms that are needed:
- Ambitious commissioning: With the right funding, pharmacies can quickly scale up their operations to provide new care. This was seen during the Covid vaccination programme, and other pandemic services. To allow investment in people, training, and infrastructure, NHSE must commission ambitious, fully funded national services. For example, the recent announcement for a Pharmacy First service should not be limited to seven common conditions, but rapidly expanded to include all common conditions and Independent Prescribing. CCA analysis shows an ambitious Pharmacy First service in England could free up over 30 million GP appointments each year, rather than the 6 million we expect that the current government plans will free up.
- Better use of skills mix: Whilst the time spent delivering clinical services is growing, pharmacists still spend most of their time dispensing. To increase capacity and improve access to clinical care, parts of the existing workload must be redistributed among the pharmacy team enabled through key legislative change. Changes to pharmacy supervision would allow this, but as yet there have been no changes to this foundational legislation.
- Better use of new and advanced technologies: Better use of technology could vastly increase capacity by moving workload away from pharmacy teams. Whilst many businesses have already invested significant funds into automation, further investment relies on the commissioning of services in physical “bricks and mortar” pharmacies. Without clarity on future funded opportunities, businesses will struggle to justify more investment. Yet again promised legislation to maximise these opportunities, such as changes to Hub and Spoke requirements, and Original Pack Dispensing, have not yet materialised.
Malcolm Harrison, Chief Executive of the CCA said: “Patient demand on pharmacies has increased drastically in the last few years. We know the sector has the potential to do more, but without immediate investment it is quickly reaching breaking point. The government committed to legislative action four years ago and these changes are yet to materialise.
“Without these changes and immediate investment, the true potential of the sector will never truly be realised. It is not just the implementation of Pharmacy First at risk, other existing and essential services that could also grind to a halt”.