This is a campaign letter for the 2021 RPS national pharmacy board elections. The views expressed in this letter belong to the author. Find out more about the RPS elections.
Even though pharmacists have had much to deal with over the past year, funding has remained at the forefront of our minds.
There has been some government help for community pharmacy during the pandemic. Yet, in many cases, it has not been enough and there has been little clarity around whether the £370m injected will need to be paid back.
Issues with funding are nothing new for community pharmacists. Since cuts were announced in 2015, it has been one of the main topics of discussion in our profession.
I strongly believe pharmacies, as an essential part of our healthcare ecosystem, require full, proper funding. As a member of the RPS Board, I would use my position to lobby for increases in funding for dispensing.
Yet I also think it unlikely that we will ever return to old levels of Essential Service payments, so we must look for alternatives to lay the foundations for a sustainable future.
It has become increasingly clear during the pandemic that a significant part of our future work lies in service provision.
Last winter, we saw the highest ever uptake of the flu vaccine, with many jabs provided by dedicated community pharmacists. During the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, pharmacists have again played a vital role.
There are six advanced services for which community pharmacies can be remunerated, but that funding could go so much further. With our skills, there are many more services that pharmacies can provide — both privately and funded by the Department of Health and Social Care or NHS.
I believe pharmacies should be their communities’ first port of call for minor ailments. If independent prescribing and other training courses are made available, community pharmacists could perform check-ups and take routine appointment pressures away from GPs.
There could also be roles for digital pharmacists, attending patient consultations and helping with medicine management online. Of course, to do any of this, we would need to extend access to summary care records.
But I believe this is possible and would be a step to creating a more financially sustainable future. It would also benefit patients, for whom having basic medical needs attended to at a local pharmacy would be hugely convenient.
Using new technological developments, such as hub-and-spoke, pharmacists can free up time to provide such services.
But to be viable, more is required than time-saving technologies — the services would need an adequate funding structure, which I will advocate for if elected.
Reece Samani, election candidate, English pharmacy board, Royal Pharmaceutical Society