A combination of developing the pharmacy technician workforce, greater use of automation, and “process change” will help reduce the increasing pressures on Boots pharmacists, according to Richard Bradley.
“I accept as a healthcare leader, it is our job to find a way through it,” Mr Bradley said at the Pharmacy Show in Birmingham yesterday (October 8), in response to a question about how Boots is supporting its “struggling” pharmacists.
Pharmacist role is “much harder”
“Fundamentally we have made the role of the pharmacist far harder than it was 10 years ago,” he said.
Pharmacists are having “more clinical conversations” about “more potent over-the-counter medicines”, such as Viagra Connect, Mr Bradley explained. This, along with the NHS’s push for patient self-care means “more people are being deferred to pharmacists”.
If pharmacists want to continue to provide more services and have more patient interactions, “I fundamentally cannot see a way through...without taking an awful lot of the supply process…away from pharmacists”, he said.
“I’m definitely not an advocate for anything that takes pharmacists away from [branches], but I am a real advocate for pharmacists spending more time doing what every pharmacist can do,” Mr Bradley said.
Time to develop “support colleagues”
While Boots has ambitions to have a pharmacy technician in every one of its 2,500 branches, it takes two years to develop a pharmacy technician, he explained. Community pharmacy is also competing with the hospital sector as the pharmacy technician role is “in high demand in the NHS”.
"It is not a tap you can turn on and say: 'I'd like to recruit 500 [pharmacy technicians] today'," Mr Bradley said. "We have to develop [them]."
Benefits of dispensing hubs
“I don’t think we should run away from automation either,” Mr Bradley added.
Around 250 Boots pharmacies are already benefiting from the multiple’s dispensing hub in Preston, he said, and the chain is “currently expanding” that offering to more branches.
The pharmacists in these branches “would never go back and are in a very different place in their ability to deliver services”, Mr Bradley added.
Last month, Boots chief pharmacist Marc Donovan said technology is both “directly and indirectly” improving patient safety in Boots branches.