It’s that time of year again, when I reinstate my love-hate relationship with the national pharmacy flu vaccination service. It’s one of those things which as a healthcare professional I find really satisfying. However, this is tinged with the reality of a massive sudden increase in workload, and a mountain of frustrations.
Frustrations such as being under-staffed, because I’m juggling staff sickness issues and new starters, together with management pressures, all on top of my number one priority – ensuring safe supply. It feels like I’m spinning plates. I’m left more stressed and asking myself: ‘Why? And what is in this for me?’
I’ve started to worry that there will come a point where I just can’t absorb all the extra pressures, and something will give. If that happens, in all honesty I will just pull back from the services element of my work to focus on core business and patient safety. The only way to avoid this is to cut out some of those pressures. As well as this, making changes to the make-up of my pharmacy team, and remuneration for my team members will be essential.
If you listen to the talk coming out of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), they have negotiated pharmacy funding for 2018-19, and are finally starting negotiations with the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) about a new service-based contract for 2019-20. Given the daily stress I’m under, hearing PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes mention "service creep", and the thought of me doing more services for no extra funding, is particularly frightening.
I’d love to spend more time with patients, but I don’t see how I’m going to be able to do this. It will require significant investment in my team, and the DH clearly – and counter-intuitively – feels that community pharmacy has been overpaid.
My employer is probably going to troop out the argument for additional services – that there’s been funding cuts, and a clawback on excess margin, so we’re not making as much on procurement – and all this means we need the income from new services to refill the pot.
But service income is much harder to earn. I’ll no doubt be swamped with a whole new set of targets – all adding to the stress of the job. One thing is certain though: with service income, it’s harder for the bigwigs at head office to obfuscate the value my professional skills bring to the business. I’ll certainly be totting up the income I bring in.
So while I feel professionally fulfilled providing the flu service – it's exactly what I want to be spending my time doing – I am not a charity. I know it’s a well-funded service for the business, but none of that filters down to me. If I’m lucky, I might get a nice laminated A4 sheet, congratulating me for doing a certain number of jabs.
Service creep worries me. If I’m going to be providing more services and my professional skills will be more in demand, then my employer must provide my team with support, financial recognition, and reward. A nice certificate, even one printed in colour, isn’t going to cut it.
The Supermarket Pharmacist is a pharmacy manager in a well-known supermarket chain. You can follow him on Twitter @Pharm_Super.