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Is it just me or is this new vision document slightly blurry?

A recent report outlines a bold new future for community pharmacy. But is it feasible, asks Beth Kennedy

By now, I’m sure many of you will have read the King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust “vision for community pharmacy” report, published earlier this week (September 19).

For those that haven’t, here’s a brief rundown. The document, commissioned by Community Pharmacy England (CPE) to support it with its negotiations with the government, sketches out a number of recommendations for the sector to implement over the next 10 years.

Read more: Pharmacies should deliver five more mandatory services, report finds

One such recommendation is that legislation should change to “allow dispensing without a pharmacist on site” – the idea being that this would help to “level the playing field” with GPs”.

The report clearly has patient safety in mind – it also advocates developing new systems to “allow safe and accurate dispensing in this scenario” as well as pharmacy technicians taking on a large part of the dispensing role. Even so, it remains to be seen whether this is one recommendation that the sector will be able to swallow wholeheartedly. Just by reading the report, I can almost hear the winces of pharmacists for whom the subject of remote supervision feels decidedly uncomfortable.

Read more: Allow dispensing ‘without pharmacist on site’, says CPE-commissioned report

The vision document also recommends that community pharmacies should be commissioned to deliver five more essential services over the next five years. Yes, you read that right; that’s five (five!) new essential services on top of those that are already part of the community pharmacy contractual framework (CPCF). It’s tiring just thinking about it.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for a more clinical future and sincerely believe that community pharmacy’s future lies in services. But we’re still in the midst of a largely untamed workforce crisis and reports of stress and burnout are only rising. As much as I would like there to be, I’m just not convinced that there’s enough capacity in the sector to meet the additional workload right now.

Read more: Ash Soni: Pharmacists need to ‘step up’ and take the opportunities they’re given

So I’m sympathetic to the delegate at Sigma’s conference in Heathrow this weekend (September 17) who, when met with a plea from National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) president Ash Soni to “step up” and meet new opportunities, questioned when it would all stop and when he would finally be able to get his life back.

It seems that more is always expected of pharmacists despite how much they are already contributing. So as World Pharmacists Day approaches on Monday (September 25), this year’s theme – pharmacists strengthening health systems – seems particularly poignant. For while community pharmacy teams have shown time and again that they’re always there to prop up primary care, it sometimes feels as though there’s a lack of reciprocal support for them.

So this World Pharmacists Day, I’ll be celebrating community pharmacy in all its knowledgeable, hardworking, compassionate glory. While that won’t go a long way to helping the sector overcome the many challenges it faces, I hope that it’s a start.

Beth Kennedy is the editor of C+D

How will you be marking World Pharmacists Day? Tweet us @ChemistDrugist or email [email protected]

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