Many pharmacists will be glad to see the back of 2016. Its lasting legacy, in England at least, will be the imposition of huge cuts in funding, despite a highly vocal public campaign highlighting the risk to the pharmacy network.
The funding cuts – which interestingly have not been emulated in other UK countries – will have a significant effect on community pharmacy and its patients, and will erode much of the goodwill of pharmacists who, day in, day out, work flat out for their local communities.
The term ‘mixed messages’ doesn’t begin to describe the treatment pharmacy has had from both the NHS and the Department of Health (DH) around the cuts.
It is hard to reconcile the hammer blow delivered to pharmacy with the warm words we hear, repeatedly, from politicians of all persuasions about how valuable the pharmacy network is. And at the same time, it is suggested that on top of the plethora of existing services, pharmacy could do a great deal more to improve the health and wellbeing of local communities.
It is abundantly clear that whilst there is political approval and support for pharmacy, a great deal more needs to be done to get across our value proposition. There is no doubt that this value exists; last year’s report commissioned by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, highlighted that a mere 12 pharmacy based services have saved the NHS an estimated £3 billion, provides sound evidence of this.
However, we are still falling short of converting this into belief and so resource from the DH and the NHS.
A key factor in getting the message across is creating a united front and the delivery of a coherent and consistent message. The establishment of Pharmacy Voice looked to be the vehicle to spearhead pharmacy’s messages on its key contribution to improving the health of the nation.
Whilst it is true to say that we saw a lot of the “Pharmacy” and perhaps a little less of the “Voice”, the organisation was beginning to gather momentum and its recently published the Community Pharmacy Forward View document set out something of a blueprint for how pharmacy could enhance its contribution to healthcare and outlined a framework – agreed by all pharmacy bodies – against which to negotiate a more relevant and resourceful contract for community pharmacy services.
But just as we get there, community pharmacy presses the button marked “destruct” as the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) decided to walk away from Pharmacy Voice.
Whilst no doubt the NPA has its reasons, one has to question the timing of the announcement – immediately prior to Christmas and in perfect harmony with the timing of the funding cuts. It also coincided with the publication of the Murray review of clinical pharmacy services, which was heavily influenced by the Forward View document.
So, goodbye Pharmacy Voice and hello again to the good old days of fragmentation and division. Our role and value is under scrutiny against a backdrop of an NHS which is going under. Community pharmacy is a key part of the solution to a number of the NHS’s difficulties – not least access to healthcare professionals.
But we continue however to be seen as part of the problem. This perception must be reversed. If ever there was a time for pharmacy unity – and a successor to Pharmacy Voice – it is now.
Meanwhile, pharmacists enter the new year with the prospect of a burgeoning workload in the wake of a 7.4% pay cut in April. They will have their work cut out, but can be reassured that Numark is on hand to provide support and guidance on combating the cuts.
We have just launched a new toolkit to help our member pharmacies determine the right plan ahead for their business, following the recent cuts to funding. Amongst other things, the toolkit advises Numark members on how to make the most of the new funding package and ensure that their pharmacies can obtain the maximum level of funding possible from the new Quality Payments Scheme.
You can find out more about Numark’s Funding Cuts Toolkit here.
John D’Arcy is managing director of pharmacy support services provider Numark