Community Pharmacy: the forgotten retail healthcare powerhouse

August 27, 2015 | Filed under

Community Pharmacy is the retail healthcare powerhouse in our communities. This is a fact the government seem to overlook. We have seen some movement of certain medicines from prescription only to pharmacy only and pharmacy only to general sales list. At times I have been underwhelmed getting access to some medicines at too low a dose to be effective and too high a price to be affordable. Why are so many of the medicines that people want/need not available without seeing a GP and getting a prescription. I saw a minor injury service in a community pharmacy with a £5 charge – doesn’t it just make you think?

As the economy starts to improve the retail aspects of community pharmacy will see some improvement. There is an improvement in consumer confidence and we are noting that people seem to be a little more willing to spend money on their own health and wellbeing. For how many years have we been asking people to take better care of themselves and the message may be getting through. Is the opportunity to do something radical right now when our economy is getting back on its feet? But are we concentrating hard enough to support personal responsibilities?

At the same time there is growing discussion about just how much the NHS can actually afford. Do we need a grown up debate about what we want the NHS to pay for and what we feel is individual responsibility? The Secretary of State for Health has some very difficult choices to make – increase tax or reduce spend. Or is there a different way?

I would like the Secretary of State to take a long hard look at the capacity and capability of the healthcare retail side of community pharmacy and consider ways of driving business their way. The whole economy benefits when the healthcare retail sector thrives.

I don’t want to get into a debate about whether the NHS should fund £100m of gluten free foods, £80 of paracetamol and millions of pounds of other ‘homely’ products – even the millions spent on homeopathy. But why don’t we think outside the box? Just move it all. The NHS may be able to save £500m in all – how many ambulances is that?

I don’t want to get into a debate about access to medicines, but as we introduce guidelines that recommend access of patients with a lower cardiovascular risk to statins, why don’t we make this a matter of patient choice and change the regulations to allow these products to be sold to those that want them? Can we move whole sections of common disease management into the community retail sector?

I don’t want to get into the debate about electronic cigarettes, but why don’t we just ask community pharmacy to drive the whole tobacco risk reduction program through the profit margin on product sales?

I don’t want to get into the debate about community pharmacy delivering standard elements of long term conditions care, for example routine diabetes foot care advice, funded through the sales of products? But how many areas, where the NHS is poorly performing, can we move to community pharmacy rather than ploughing NHS resources in.

I don’t want to get into the debate about obesity, but unless the population has better access to products that support weight reduction in a controlled way with community pharmacy working with organisations like weight watchers will we ever win the battle?

I don’t want to get into any of these debates, but it is about time that the government did and put their money behind the rhetoric of personal responsibility. Community pharmacy can work with the government to increase access to appropriate healthcare for vulnerable sections of their local communities. We could figure out ways to support discounts to those that can’t afford to pay the full price, involve housing and charities and others.

Can we just sit around a table and talk about it?