Since the government announced their planned cut to pharmacy funding, Tees local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) has been phenomenally active, by reaching out to contractors at a time when every pharmacist and pharmacy team member feels an ominous dark cloud hanging over the pharmacy world.
The announcement – one everyone initially received with distress – resulted in every team huddle consisting of: "How have we met targets?" "How many medicine use reviews and new medicine service reviews were achieved?"
The real question being asked was: "Will our branch be one to thrive in the new harsh world of pharmacy?" In my region, Tees LPC has lent a helping hand. If you were to ask anyone before this era what the LPC did, many would say they sit at meetings and discuss important matters. And that is all. Well, that stereotype has definitely been abolished.
A stormy evening
The LPC began supporting contractors as early as November last year. An evening meeting was held, titled 'How do the funding cuts affect you?' The weather outside reflected the mood of those walking in: gloomy. Full force winds were coming from every direction and rain was pouring. Many struggled to make it that evening. Fortunately I have a Mercedes with a chauffeur – also known as the husband and his car – so I arrived promptly and got dropped off at the entrance to avoid being soaked.
Even though the stormy weather created havoc, the room soon became full of pharmacists and their teams. There was almost a feeling of déjà vu, as the tone of discussions on the upcoming cuts was similar to the one from many years ago, when the new pharmacy contract was released. If you are fortunate enough to have many years of age under your belt, you can recall that panic. But why do we not learn? When changes in pharmacy are made, our skills and expertise are indispensable, and we always excel.
That evening, I and other members of the LPC gave short presentations outlining the quality payments criteria and how the measures could be achieved by pharmacy businesses. Each talk emphasised the importance of the criteria being met, not just for the wellbeing of our patients, but for the financial health of pharmacy businesses. Discussions took place and open questions were asked.
The calm after the storm
It seemed by the end of the evening, as the weather also calmed, that everyone’s mood was much lighter and more smiles were seen. We had reassured the attendees that all would be well; that we must further develop our workforce, and that we must be ready for the opportunities coming our way.
Our LPC has not stopped there. Numerous training events for healthy living champions have been held. These are fully booked within days – they are that good!
We have an additional two members of the team, who have roles covering quality and training. Most pharmacy staff would panic if they thought an LPC member was visiting their branch. However, through visiting every pharmacy in the region, these two members have left each branch with a clear image of what is required and what training and skills will be needed.
They provided pharmacy teams teams with the new funding guidelines, a checklist and a final summary of what they need to do to ensure they are ready for the first review of quality payments eligibility on April 28. To say this additional support was a success is an understatement.
Quality payments online tool
Tees LPC has also utilised PharmOutcomes as a tool to reach out to contractors, by adding a feature to our website named “quality payments assessment”. Accessing this gives every pharmacy an additional opportunity to review their current status and to highlight areas where they need support to reach the payment criteria. It also gives our LPC an insight into the common areas of non-compliance, which we can then plan training and support for.
Yes, there are some serious changes coming our way. But they must now be accepted. The outcomes they will potentially produce are positive. As community pharmacists, we should actively engage in these changes and utilise our skills and knowledge. We are an essential public service. We are being given a chance to offer more to our patients and to strengthen our teams by upskilling.
Taking on board all the changes in the world of pharmacy, we must try to have a much more positive outlook. The gateway criteria for quality payments will produce a setting for a more clinically focused community pharmacy, where services are the heart of what we do.
Calling out to all fellow pharmacy professionals: the time has come to allow our expertise to shine through and make an impact on the world of healthcare.
Yasmeen Afsar is Company Chemists' Association representative, Tees LPC