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.
The future of pharmacy is uncertain, yet with that uncertainty comes opportunity and the need to seize it.
Wherever medicines are used, patients should have in-person access to a pharmacist. Yet our roles must extend beyond that of supply and we must embed ourselves into the day-to-day long-term care and management of patients. The funding model for community pharmacy doesn’t reward this, instead most benefiting high volume dispensing, with little regard for the added value pharmacists can bring.
Distance selling pharmacies are processing record numbers of prescriptions — a rise of nearly 50% in 2020 alone — no doubt in part owing to the pandemic. There may always be a place for these services, but I fear that they deprive patients of the same level of opportunity to get advice and support with their medicines. As a pharmacist in general practice, I value the relationships I build up with my local pharmacies and the benefits these bring to patient care.
So what is the solution? For starters, we need pharmacies to be better funded and in a way that primarily rewards comprehensive pharmaceutical care and not just the number of items dispensed. From diagnosing and treating minor ailments effectively, to managing long-term conditions such as asthma and diabetes, we should take the lead in prescribing and monitoring medicines — an area we are, after all, experts in.
This will not be easy, but localised examples do exist. Integrated care systems will provide regional opportunities for pharmacies to develop and offer these services, but they will need support to overcome the often powerful voices of other groups who may be competing to provide them.
The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) published their ‘Wider Than Medicines’ strategy in 2018, setting out a vision where pharmacists from all sectors were better utilised as part of a multidisciplinary team providing truly joined-up care. We could free up other professions to focus on their individual specialisms, while providing a managed framework for pharmacists to work and develop within.
I call on the RPS to support this strategy and work with the PDA and others to lobby the government to enable pharmacists to put their skills to the best possible use, and secure the future of the profession for the benefit of our patients.
Alisdair Jones, election candidate, English pharmacy board, Royal Pharmaceutical Society