It was a very intense, but extremely interesting, couple of weeks for us at the start of March. The Numark conference took place at the start of the month and, as the industry has already seen, raised some vital points on the current state of independent community pharmacy.
Undoubtedly, we are going through a difficult and unpredictable period, where change is the new norm. The best we can do is be prepared for – and embrace – that change.
A number of topics were discussed during the conference, including the impact of the funding cuts (which will become even more real over the next few months), the potential of hub-and-spoke dispensing, the need for robust IT systems in pharmacy, and the importance of teamwork and collaboration.
Overall, the outlook was uncertain, but not negative.
Community pharmacy definitely has a future – I have no doubt about that. As such, one of the main highlights of the conference was determining a way forward. Looking ahead, compliance is likely to play a significant role in how community pharmacy performs as a sector.
Admittedly, the term “compliance” can often conjure up negative connotations. On an industry level, for instance, in terms of medicines management we still struggle with the most politically correct way of using the word, interchanging it with terms like “concordance” and “adherence” on a regular basis.
Compliance is simple; it's making sure you follow the rules. What isn't simple is the interpretation and creation of those rules.
There are two sides to compliance: regulatory compliance and internal compliance. The former is about making sure that any business or action conducted by your pharmacy is within legal parameters and/or that all ‘reasonable’ actions have been taken in order to prevent incidents. The latter is about really focusing on internal policies and standards, while ensuring that all employees are adhering to a culture of honesty, regulatory compliance and constant improvement.
Why are both sides of compliance important? Because the cost of non-compliance is simply too great.
As a regulated profession, we understand fully the importance of compliance in preventing unethical conduct and violations of the law, and adhere stringently to the regulatory agenda as set out principally by the General Pharmaceutical Council.
However, we tend to be less compliant when it comes to business practices, and this is the part we should be focusing on. At Numark, we work day in day out with our member pharmacies to help deliver significant financial and operational benefits to their businesses.
All successful businesses are compliant to a formula or set of rules, and this stems from them building a culture of compliance.
Compliance could and should have significant, positive, secondary benefits on business operations. The advantages are many and vary with the nature of the business, but for me the top five business benefits of compliance are:
- Quality improvements – Through the prevention of errors or failures before they occur or detection at an early stage, and consequent reduction in the need to repeat or re-do tasks.
- Greater efficiency – The more compliance is embedded into the DNA of business operations, the more efficient a business is likely to become. A culture of doing the right thing valued by everyone in the business will enhance efficiency and eliminate instances of after-the-fact review and clean-up.
- Trust and brand loyalty – Having in place a clear, effective and broadly communicated compliance programme helps you signal to key stakeholders that compliance is a top priority for your pharmacy business. It shows your commitment to doing business the right way, to the highest ethical standards. This breeds trust and confidence, and in turn, brand loyalty.
- Risk management – This is at the core of what pharmacists do and so, by definition, pharmacy businesses need to effectively address significant strategic, operational, financial and other risks.
- Competitive differentiation – Good compliance is a differentiator that helps clients drive better outcomes more efficiently, while reducing risk.
Given the pressures on our sector, we can expect compliance to become even more important over the next few years. Numark understands the value of this and – through its range of services – aims to support businesses every step of the way.
Success is predicated upon effective compliance. Pharmacy success will in turn be built on having the experience and skills to not only meet the requirements of the NHS, but exceed them. It’s just good business.
John D’Arcy is managing director of pharmacy support services provider Numark