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'How Philip Hammond should support pharmacy in his autumn budget'

Hitesh Dodhia: Give pharmacies a more important role

The autumn budget must address digitisation in pharmacy to help the NHS, says PharmacyOutlet.co.uk's Hitesh Dodhia

The 2017 autumn budget is less than a day away and the rumour mills are churning with speculation of what chancellor Philip Hammond will include in this critical announcement.

Tomorrow’s announcement will almost certainly contain new or reformed policy regarding UK healthcare. And so, the question must be asked of what Mr Hammond should do to improve healthcare services. Furthermore, one wonders if he will redress the surprise omission of the role of community pharmacies from the spring budget earlier this year.

When Mr Hammond dusts off the famous red briefcase, it’s vital that he takes decisive action to address the NHS’s current struggles. Central to this must be the modernisation – or rather, digitisation – of the healthcare sector. Significant investments must be made to drag the time-consuming, paper-based systems used by pharmacists into the 21st century.

EPS leads the way

The electronic prescription service (EPS) is a prime example. Launched four years ago, a recent audit by NHS Digital calculated that the NHS had saved £130 million over three years thanks to EPS. However, a recent study by PharmacyOutlet.co.uk uncovered that 60% of UK adults had not actually heard of EPS, demonstrating the need for greater awareness around these schemes.

Investment must be made into new technologies and processes. EPS has illustrated the financial benefits of digitisation. But it also proves that more education is required around such initiatives. In the budget, Mr Hammond should take the chance to invest in developing new digital practices, while simultaneously ensuring they have as great an impact as possible.

The NHS is faltering

Even the casual observer will be aware that changes must be introduced to alter the way healthcare is provided across the UK. The current model is faltering, as is reflected in a steady stream of news about the country’s healthcare crisis: in the past month the Health Foundation predicted that this winter the number of A&E patients seen within the target four-hour window could fall to its lowest level (87%) since records began in 2004. The findings come alongside fears that hundreds of pharmacies could be closed in the years ahead. It would make a great deal of sense for Mr Hammond to put his weight behind pharmacies playing a greater part on the frontline of UK healthcare.

This week’s speech provides a chance for Mr Hammond to reverse his decision to overlook pharmacy in the spring budget. Ultimately, medical professionals within pharmacies are ideally placed to offer advice and treatment to people suffering from minor or common illnesses. In doing so, pharmacies can keep patients out of GP surgeries and A&E departments, saving the NHS money without sacrificing patient care.

By investing in digitisation and giving pharmacies a more important role to play as gatekeepers for public healthcare, Mr Hammond and the Conservative government can build a model that delivers a superior level of care while significantly improving efficiency.

Hitesh Dodhia is the superintendent pharmacist of online pharmacy PharmacyOutlet.co.uk

3 Comments

Sunny Jim, Pharmacy Buyer

If you really want to save money , open the NHS Pharmacy contract so anyone can open up a shop !!

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

I think Mr Hammond has more pressing concerns than providing more ring fenced profits for boots and lloyds 

Wolverine 001 , Pharmacist Director

What more important role can pharmacy play?? Blood pressure monitoring, weight management - these are all fads that pharmacies have been doing for years - lets take it a step further Hba1c testing, in store phlebotomy, ECG testing with handheld devices - all that can be done from pharmacy - I even introduced a centrifuge machine to provide thyroid function tests.  

When working out costs they are all much more expensive to do in pharmacy than in the hospital - how many pharmacists can acctually provide a phlebotomy service, their consultation rooms are laughable with no reinvestment into the property.  

Ill tell you how Mr Hammond can save money - have only two brick and mortar pharmacies in any town and have a central hub to do all repeat prescriptions delivered via amazon or P2U.  This will save the government loads of money!!

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