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Xrayser: Winter is coming – but are we prepared to meet the added pressures?

This summer’s unseasonable chill has got Xrayser wondering how the NHS will fare once the weather turns (even) colder

I’m hearing lots of noise about winter pressures and how we need to prepare to ensure that we are not under the same pressures as last year, not to mention many years before that.

I hate to say it, but I’m going to anyway. Warnings like these make NHS decision-makers sound like a broken record that we’re still trying to play in the days of Spotify and Apple music.

We need to wake up and smell the coffee – and this being community pharmacy, that coffee has been left to go cold. The NHS is an amazing institution, but it can no longer be called the NHS as it’s not a National Health Service, but rather a National Ill Health Service. The NHS works best at the point of urgent need, which, one could say, is why it was created in the first place.

Read more: Xrayser: Will community pharmacy start winning the game in 2023?

Pre-COVID-19, we were looking at the NHS 10 Year Plan, which was all about the prevention of ill health. COVID-19 understandably halted moving ahead with this, but now the World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced that we are no longer in a worldwide pandemic. So, reader, why are we not going to back to basics and working out what we need to do together as a system to prevent ill health instead of constantly firefighting?

Perhaps it’s because we are too busy going through yet another organisational restructure, which, let’s face it, is simply moving people around and giving them and various parts system new titles. Nothing really changes because the behaviours and culture don’t change, and we continue to have people in roles who don’t understand community pharmacy and the value it brings to primary care.

Right now it seems like primary care is being used to describe GP surgeries alone, while pharmacy, dentistry and optometry are added on as an afterthought. Too many chiefs and not enough frontline staff, that’s the problem.

Read more: And the winner is... C+D unveils your new Xrayser

Maybe we need to run the NHS like a business. While this view won’t be popular, perhaps we need clinicians to be advisors – not run organisations. Clinicians are experts in their field and good with patients, and that’s where their talents should remain.

We need to ask more questions about local versus national and how much money is wasted. You often get communications in January stating that X amount of funding is available, but that it needs to be used by March. A series of meetings then take place to discuss how to distribute that money.

Everyone takes part in the charade of putting forward ideas and we kid ourselves that this time community pharmacy will win the funding, as we have proven time and time again that we are well connected with local communities, that we don’t need people to book appointments, that we are accessible – the list goes on.

Read more: ‘Deeply frustrating’: CPE slams frozen flu funding amid possible delays to service

Then, a week or two later, you get the email stating that the funding has been awarded to X,Y or Z. The money disappears into a void, the meetings stop and you never hear about the outcome for the local population. Community pharmacy doesn’t get a look in, even though we shared and showcased what we did during the pandemic.

Note to self: stop talking about community pharmacy during the pandemic. Nobody cares and everyone has moved on. Perhaps community pharmacy needs to move on, too. Stop living in the past, stop comparing the present to the way things used to be. Stop talking about how we stepped up during COVID-19.

We need to think about a future that is smarter, better for local communities, fit for purpose – and funded appropriately, of course…

The identity of Xrayser remains a mystery, but their irreverent views are known by all. You can Tweet them @Xrayserpharmacy

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