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Open up to increase pharmacy’s accessibility

If you mirror the local surgeries’ working hours, how can you step in when a GP is not available? In her first blog for C+D, Numark's Yvonne Tuckley argues that closing for lunch should be a thing of the past

If you mirror the local surgeries' working hours, how can you step in when a GP is not available? In her first blog for C+D, Numark's Yvonne Tuckley argues that closing for lunch should be a thing of the past


Walk down any high street and it is unlikely you will find shops closed for lunch, so why do some community pharmacies still close? What image do we want to portray: one of positive, forward-thinking, accessible healthcare professionals or one of past-dwelling shopkeepers?


As a profession we are encouraging patients to seek advice from their pharmacist and our message, as well as many of the activities we do, is underpinned by accessibility. So, when a customer wants to collect their prescription in their lunch hour or needs a brief intervention, we should be there.


One contractor told me that his local surgery was closed for lunch so it wasn't a problem that his pharmacy was also closed. But if you mirror the local surgeries' working hours, how can you step in when a GP is not available? Moreover, mirroring the GP opening hours only reinforces the image of pharmacies having a mere supply function after a GP makes the clinical decision and issues a prescription.

Are we positive, forward-thinking, accessible healthcare professionals or past-dwelling shopkeepers?


I have also heard the argument that it costs too much to cover additional lunchtime hours. Do you really need additional hours, or can you cover the lunch break by adjusting when the pharmacy team take their lunches, or their shift patterns? With the electronic prescription service, prescriptions are available to you 24/7, so what are you doing to plan for how that might change your workflow and the opportunities that might create?


And what about customers and patients who only have their lunchtime to pick up medicines or seek healthcare advice? Who will they turn to if you are closed? Their nearest 100-hour pharmacy, a multiple, or perhaps the internet.


But what about our lunch, I hear you cry! Of course a pharmacist needs a break and to eat; time to clear your mind and refocus is important, and we shouldn't lose sight of the working time regulations or the responsible pharmacist regulations, which go further. But does this really translate into being closed or unable to serve some customers? Are you looking for reasons to suit you or your customers?


Accessibility, service and convenience are all required but patient safety has to be the first concern. Is this realistic if the pharmacist is unable to take an appropriate break? What exactly is ‘an area where medicines are dispensed'? If a pharmacist takes a break in the paperwork area of the dispensary is this OK?


Not all pharmacies are the same and therefore there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. But what does stand true for all businesses, including community pharmacies, is that they cannot afford to stand still. Change is rarely easy but there is a solution; you just need the will and determination to find the right one for you.


Yvonne Tuckley is learning and development manager at Numark

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