I remember clearly when we introduced our diabetes and blood pressure checks in Lloydspharmacy. At the time, I was an area manager and I recall there being a real sense of pride and optimism around our network and among the profession in general. It was a groundbreaking move that showed to the rest of the industry that community pharmacy had a vital role to play on the frontline of UK healthcare.
Since then, the landscape has changed. We are operating in a different economic environment now than we were at the start of the century. Many businesses continue to feel the impact of funding reductions – and all are having to make tough, but necessary, commercial decisions.
So far at Lloydspharmacy, we are proud to have delivered over two million type 2 diabetes and blood pressure checks. Up until now, these tests have been completely free of charge to our customers. However, with continuing pressure to make efficiencies, this model has become unsustainable for us.
Providing this service requires a lot of resource: equipment, consumables and the valuable time of our pharmacists. That’s why we have taken the difficult decision to no longer provide free, year-round blood pressure checks and type 2 diabetes screening services.
We understand that this change may take some time to get used to for our customers, but it’s not a decision that we have taken lightly. The stark reality is that we need to be commercially sustainable in order to continue to provide the best possible care to our patients.
We remain committed to working with partners both nationally and locally, the NHS and public health bodies, to support formal prevention programmes, which target those people who are most at risk, such as the NHS Health Check and National Diabetes Prevention Programme in England.
We will also continue to promote blood pressure testing and diabetes screening as part of public health campaigns and during promotional periods they will be discounted or delivered free of charge, for example during Diabetes Week in June (11-17).
We welcomed the views of the secretary of state for health, Matt Hancock, who recently said that communities will be “at the heart” of the forthcoming prevention green paper. As healthcare shifts towards more preventative measures, we must work together to utilise our accessibility and presence in communities across the country. Pharmacies are well placed to support the prevention of long-term conditions that cost the NHS more and more each year.
Nigel Swift is retail and marketing director at Lloydspharmacy parent company McKesson UK