In community pharmacies, electronic prescribing appeared to be the panacea for managing workload, but this has impacted most of the community pharmacies negatively. Electronic prescriptions printed in their hundreds, in no apparent order apart from being alphabetical. An initial scan helps to outline obvious acutes but there are no extra clues for what would be in most timely need.
Each download is subsequently followed by numerous phone calls from patients enquiring if their prescription has been received and when would it be ready.
Alongside this, a patient may not have received all their ordered items at the same time, with subsequent expressions of anger vented to a pharmacy team member.
Patients are encouraged to use the NHS App or the online platforms to order medication from their surgery. This is welcomed by “IT-friendly“ patients, but a vast number do not have the understanding or finances to undertake this activity for themselves. The burden to support these patients has fallen to community pharmacies.
Pharmacies are not just about pills but about people and places. The community pharmacies know their patients and understand their needs, and it is our nature to always help. It is so important not to lose this in an increasing online lead healthcare system.
The dispensing process is only part of supporting a patient. Helping to navigate the ordering process and manage their medication safely have become additional time-consuming activities to our teams.
Electronic repeat batch dispensing has added to this administrative burden. I would work with the RPS to highlight the impact of recent IT changes to community pharmacies and patients, while adding their voice to the GPHC, PSNC, NPA, CCA and AIM to work with NHS England and NHS Improvement and the Department of Health and Social Care to develop processes which add benefits, work safely and are adequately funded for all.
Secondly, a transition to an enhanced clinical role by community pharmacists will need the same ongoing funded financial education package already enjoyed by colleagues working in other sectors.
I would welcome working with RPS to ensure they champion this proposal and, when producing education packages, recognise the varying degrees of support needed by community pharmacists to navigate their path to a clinically competent future.
Sian Retallick, English Pharmacy Board candidate