How does the future of the community pharmacy look?

With pharmacies being encouraged to better support GP practices across the UK, what does the future look like for these community care services?

Following a great deal of discussion around how pharmacies can support GPs in the future of primary care, Numark’s Jeremy Meader spoke to Chemist and Druggist about how pharmacies will help with the delivery of the NHS’s long-term plan.

Meader said that community pharmacy has been hit by funding issues over the last few years, and that dispensing of medicine alone is no longer viable for a profitable pharmacy.

“So what impact do NHS England’s ambitions have on future pharmacy profitability, and how do we need to adapt to ensure we are primed to maximise opportunities for remuneration when they arise?” he asked in Chemist and Druggist.

The starting point, he said, is to figure out where the community pharmacy fits into supporting the NHS and its long-term plan.

“While it requires some reading between the lines, what is abundantly clear is the intention to continue switching funding away from dispensing activity, and make more of the role of community pharmacists – both in and out of the pharmacy setting,” Meader says.

“Indeed, the phrase ‘clinical pharmacist’ has reared its head a number of times.

“The intention for NHS England to work with the government to make greater use of pharmacists’ skills is encouraging, but it is very difficult to see where funding will follow. NHS England’s recent campaign, ‘Help us, help you’, is designed to raise awareness of the support community pharmacy can offer at a local level, and has ambitions to re-educate patients that their GP surgery doesn’t have to be their first choice for treatment and advice for minor ailments.

“It is important that community pharmacy gets on board with these campaigns. However, what of our role in the future? With the announcement of a £4.5bn increase in GP funding to support the establishment of primary care networks across the country, covering 30-50,000 patients each.

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“Essentially, this investment will fund practice-based pharmacists, who will be a key part of the GP team working alongside a range of healthcare professionals.”

Meader is optimistic about the future of community pharmacies, adding that “we should not sit idly by and accept the hand we are dealt. We must grasp every opportunity, and we must push for every penny – whether that’s through the Quality Payment Scheme, delivering medication reviews, vaccinating patients or digital integration.

“Let’s show the NHS what we can achieve.”

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