Community pharmacists are a profession that I would imagine all involved are proud to be a part of. We do so much for so many, and we work so hard for patients that nobody who comes into contact with us can deny our worth to the NHS. It was therefore a shame to see the remaining hope of recognition for our work dwindle with the announcement of the new pharmacy funding contract in England.
But who would have expected there would be more stressors to come, with the announcement last month that MUR target patient groups have narrowed – which feels far too much like a last-minute move of the goal posts for those of us anxiously trying to get our figures up.
As of October 1, the patient groups eligible for the MUR service have narrowed. The two targeted groups now are those on ‘high-risk’ medicines, and those recently discharged with changes made to medication regimes while they were in hospital. This revokes patients with cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases and those taking four or more medicines.
The groups lost represent a significant proportion of those previously targeted. The news accompanies the slow dissolution of the MUR service, as it will no longer be available in 2021. Narrowing the targeted population will make it harder for pharmacies to complete them and receive the funding so desperately needed to keep ourselves going, until they are gone completely.
We are already feeling the pinch and those of us struggling to maintain safe staff levels are finding it hard to keep up with the day-to-day work. With flu vaccinations taking up lots of our time, how much do we have left to give of ourselves to other services? So, while we scramble around to prepare ourselves for the Community Pharmacist Consultation Scheme, and grit our teeth through the start of the cold weather season, we are hit with another blow in this losing game of funding.
The MURs that I find have the most benefit to my patients are those in the respiratory category. Correcting inhaler technique makes a noticeable difference to patients and they are incredibly grateful for the advice. Those who have a significant number of medicines also benefit hugely from a discussion about what they are for, as understanding improves compliance. The MUR service presented an opportunity to discuss any questions the patient may have.
However, I am glad that MURs are being removed from the services we offer. Forcing pharmacists to meet targets by talking to patients in specific categories isn’t the right way to approach healthcare. Some MURs aren’t worthwhile for either the patient or the healthcare provider.
This latest announcement fails to surprise me. Pharmacists are already stressed to the point where empathy for patients is now joined by a widespread apathy to achieving targets. If the bar to achieve is set too high, pharmacists will fail to reach it and may even turn to other sectors where their work can be recognised and they will be better appreciated.
I wish I could say ‘short-term pain for long-term gain’, but while the short-term pain of trying and failing to meet MUR targets is likely, the long-term gain can’t be seen. For those of us feeling the stress and frustration, however hard we try, nothing seems to be good enough./p>
Laura Buckley is a community pharmacist based in north England