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Xrayser hopeful number 2: Are clinical services really where it’s at?

Our second Xrayser candidate just can’t understand why clinical services can’t get with the times

“We need to move away from dispensing and deliver more services,” they said.

“There’s no money in dispensing, the funding keeps getting cut, services is where it’s all at.”

“Services allow us to use our clinical skills.”

“We won’t lose workforce from community pharmacy if we allow people to use their skills for services.”

This is what I was hearing almost 17 years ago when I had to complete my Medicines Use Review (MUR) training.

Read more: Cornish walk-in pharmacy service eyes up national rollout

I should have seen it then. Completing training to get a certificate to send to the patient care technician (PCT) so we could show our competence in talking to patients about their medication.

Wasn’t that what being a pharmacist was about? Being experts in medication, who are able to relay this expert knowledge to patients in a language that they can understand.

I had a slight moan to a colleague and then like every compliant pharmacist I completed the training, sent my certificate to the PCT and started delivering MURs.

17 years later, I ask myself, what has changed?

Patient expectations of their pharmacist have changed. Patients are more aware of their medical conditions thanks to Dr Google and have an expectation of their pharmacist to be knowledgeable and to do everything five times faster than in their last visit.

IT has changed, and along with it the notion that it makes everything lean and efficient.

I guess those experts don’t take into account the outages that we frequently see, or the time taken to phone the helpdesk, or the lost/forgotten password reset every 90 days because of the high NHS Digital security requirements. Social media is now a go-to for medical advice and it must be true if it’s on Facebook or Twitter!

Read more: The jury's out on the community pharmacist consultation service

But what hasn’t changed over all these years is the hoops that we have to jump through to prove that we are worthy of delivering a service in a community pharmacy.

Take the community pharmacist consultation Service (CPCS) as an example. Talking to GP surgery staff about the service and being asked what training you’ve completed for the service is quite frankly insulting. And actually, it was four years at university, one year of pre-registration training and annual continuing professional development, thank you very much.

“How are you experts on minor illness,” they ask. Well, you know at the weekend and in the evenings when your surgeries are closed? We advise thousands of patients on their minor illnesses. Oh and by the way, we have been doing this for years!

As I’ve said, IT has changed over the past 17 years, but not always for the better.

Read more: Pharmacy contraception service launch delayed over lack of IT support

For new services, each area decides the IT platform that they will use. You have to check in numerous different places, most of the time having to click on the ‘forgotten password’ button as you’re locked out due to someone typing in the wrong combination too many times. For although your primary care network (PCN) may have chosen one IT platform, a neighbouring one may use another. Reader, please note that PCNs do not have a fence around them trapping the patients into that geography.

This is just one service. But these reflections are true of so many services that we are landed with in community pharmacy. I want to see change but fear that I will be here in 10 years’ time writing the same piece but replacing the CPCS with another service. I hope that I am wrong, 

COVID-19 has accelerated the journey for community pharmacy, but it should not have taken a worldwide pandemic to show how community pharmacy can shine – because we shine every day. This is one thing that I don’t want to see change.

Does this Xrayser hopeful get your vote? Click here to choose your favourite.

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