Avicenna members gathered in Mauritius last week for the independent support group’s annual conference, where the theme was “bridge over troubled water”.
At the conference, delegates were able to share views on the impending £170 million cut to pharmacy funding, such as the importance of avoiding redundancies, how the cuts will cost pharmacies £110,000 over the next five years and why this represents a “lose-lose” situation for everyone in the sector.
Here’s the pick of the rest of what we learned at the conference.
1. MURs are a “gamechanger”
Medicines use reviews (MURs) may have had some bad press lately, but Avicenna CEO Salim Jetha was keen to impress their benefits upon delegates during his opening address at the conference. He branded the service a “gamechanger” that had forced pharmacists to introduce consultation rooms into their stores.
The introduction of MURs also paved the way for other clinical services including flu vaccinations, smoking cessation and health checks, he added.
In his experience, patients are always appreciative of MURs, and it would be “a shame” if the service was “put under scrutiny”, he said.
2. Alliance Healthcare is unconvinced by hub-and-spoke savings…
The apparently “fantastic” savings the government claims can be made by hub-and-spoke dispensing are as yet untested, Alliance Healthcare’s UK commercial director John Pignone told delegates. There may be some savings for “very large” pharmacies dispensing thousands of items, but this has not been proven, he added.
“Nobody has yet shown me the economics of where those savings are,” he stressed.
While Alliance is happy to be driven by the needs of its customers and provide a hub-and-spoke service if they desire it, the “economics have got to be proven” before it can “move this forward”, Mr Pignone said
3. ...and has questions about how EU law could affect pharmacy processes
Mr Pignone also expressed some reservations about how the introduction of European anti-counterfeiting legislation the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) – due to come into effect in February 2019 – could affect pharmacies.
A lot of independent pharmacies Mr Pignone has spoken to have their “heads in the sand” about the implementation of the FMD, he said. But the legislation will have cost implications – due to paying for the electronic scanner used to scan medicines’ barcodes at the point of delivery – and will also impact on processes, he told delegates.
For example, pharmacists will have to choose an appropriate time to scan medicines in repeat prescriptions, Mr Pignone explained. This will pose a "problem" if they scan the medicines when assembling the prescription ahead of time and the patient doesn't collect them, because they will then have to enter the medicines back onto the system's database, he pointed out.
“It’s just another change that you’ve got to be mindful of because [the FMD] will change the way you actually dispense,” he said.
4. Update on Avicenna’s member support package
So far, 80 Avicenna members have signed up to its membership support package AviPlus, which launched at last year’s conference in Cyprus, Avicenna head of membership services Brij Valla told delegates.
The package includes support with regulation, including standard operating procedures (SOPs), “extensive” training from Avicenna's training academy, and assistance with retail and business plans.