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It’s impossible to plan – whatever the plan is

"The half of us who have already made redundancies are wondering if that pain was for naught, and the other half don’t know what to do"

The government's indecision about imposing funding cuts makes it impossible to prepare, says Xrayser

“Fail to plan and you plan to fail” is one of those wonderful management sayings you tend to hear trotted out at any ‘personal effectiveness’ course. But it’s quite appropriate today because I’m not feeling very personally effective if I’m honest, and one of the reasons relates to that saying.

The other reason we’re not working to the best of our ability on an increasingly busy day – where electronic prescription service (EPS) scripts drop like spam into our inbox – is that we’re getting constant calls from surgeries asking us to cancel electronic prescriptions we’ve received.

Now I know this is a safety requirement and that part of the clinical governance for surgery staff demands they contact us whenever a GP tries unsuccessfully to recall a prescription, but I don’t remember this many calls when we dealt with ordinary green paper prescriptions.

Has the advent of EPS suddenly led to an irrational laissez-faire attitude by prescribers, or do they find themselves leaning over the keyboard and accidentally pressing the ‘issue’ button with their elbow or something? Whatever the cause, it’s yet another distraction in our day.

Mind you, maybe these calls will cease once all the surgery admin staff have been retrained as healthcare assistants. At least, that’s the approach that seems to have been taken by NHS Ayrshire and Arran, which was reported by Pulse magazine last week to be considering retraining its staff in this way to ease GP workload.

Boots seemed to have a similar idea last year, when it began upskilling its dispensing assistants to a ‘pharmacy advisor’ role. I don’t know what effect this strategy is having at the multiple, but in our local surgery most of the admin work is done by receptionists. The queue at the front desk is long enough already when we go to pick up the odd CD script, without having to wait while the receptionist finishes lancing a boil.

Never mind all that, I should really be cracking open the champagne, since the proposed £170 million cut to pharmacy funding in England has been put into abeyance*. But in the same week that a study for the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee revealed the sector made a net contribution to society of £3 billion last year, pharmacy minister David Mowat says we shouldn’t expect to escape NHS efficiency savings over the coming years. And that’s why I’m not feeling very personally effective.

You see, the half of us who have already made redundancies are wondering if that pain was for naught, and the other half don’t know what to do. I welcome that my pharmacy’s not losing £20,000 a year starting next month, but I am left not knowing if I should be investing in staff and services, or cutting costs. This makes it impossible to plan, and if I fail to plan… well, I don’t know what may happen.

*The government has since announced that the full details of its funding "package" for pharmacy will be announced in mid-October.


Leon The Apothecary, Student

I personally think a Pharmacy Technician would be a highly valuable asset to a surgery to help process prescriptions with pharmacies including non-clinical prescription queries, nomination, standardisation, and setting up with repeat dispensing batches for patients on long-term medications.

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