Community Pharmacy’s Biggest Successes and Challenges in 2021 :: C+D

From record flu vaccination numbers to concerns about pharmacist shortages in the industry, community pharmacy has faced another tough year in the face of COVID-19.

The bosses of the four UK community pharmacy funding negotiators have delivered their verdict to C+D over the past year.

England: the PSNC “harmed” by the rejection of the increase in funding

Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) director of communications and public affairs Zoe Long told C+D that a major blow in 2021 was the negotiator’s offers for increased funding falling on the ears of a deaf during his talks with the government on the third year of the five-year contractual framework of the community pharmacy.

She told C+D: ‘PSNC, like all contractors, felt aggrieved that HM Treasury flatly rejected any possibility of an increase in the amount of the contract for this year. The inability of our interviewees to come to terms with the financial, labor, capacity and broader cost challenges facing all segments of our industry was unfathomable. »

“The continued financial pressure applied to the sector has not been alleviated, and entrepreneurs have been rightly discouraged by the government’s reluctance to cover contractors’ COVID-19-related costs in the first year of the pandemic. The costs continue to rise and, unlike many businesses, pharmacies do not have the ability to pass them on to consumers,” she said.

PSNC’s work to try to recover COVID-19 costs from contractors was “both a high and a low” of 2021, Ms Long told C+D.

She explained: “We were delighted that despite initial resistance from the UK Treasury to fully cover these costs, our coordinated funding offer and public affairs campaign ultimately resulted in contractors claiming more than double the initial offer. of £120 million from the government. in COVID-19 costs.

“However, the government’s initial reluctance to fully cover the costs, and the fact that we subsequently had such a long battle to secure this agreement, was a significant concern and disappointment for us.”

There were, however, “some clear positives and hard-earned concessions,” she added. These included continuation of transitional payment and drastically reducing the workload of the Pharmacy Quality Scheme, while rejecting regulatory changes and services “that would not work for the sector”, she added.

Another “phenomenal” achievement for the industry was the “absolutely critical” response by pharmacies to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Ms Long said.

Staying open and available throughout the pandemic, especially when other parts of primary care have become less accessible, has been a huge achievement, she added. Community Pharmacy in England has offered “some 58 million informal health care consultations” and delivered 4.6 million flu shots to date, she said.

Additionally, “97% of pharmacies signed up to distribute lateral flow devices in the spring,” she said, distributing “nearly 12 million test kits to the public in just six months.”

“But we know they come at a cost – both to the pharmacy contractors and to their teams,” Ms Long added.

Scotland: Pharmacy First “the greatest success”

Meanwhile, in Scotland, NHS Pharmacy First Scotland is “continuing…[to be] the biggest hit” of 2021, Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) chief operating officer Matt Barclay told C+D.

“Patient engagement continues to grow, and the data backs it up,” he added. “It’s exactly the kind of service that uses the pharmacy network appropriately, making sure people can be seen at the right time and in the right place.”

The expansion of the Pharmacy First service is also “a natural extension”, Mr Barclay added. “The strategy around independent prescribing and Pharmacy First Plus is also the right one. The integration of independent prescribing skills into community pharmacy is important for the future of patient services and pharmacy practice in Scotland. We absolutely must aspire to the ultimate goal of a prescribing pharmacist in every pharmacy.

But as in England, the “biggest challenge has undoubtedly been the continuation of the pandemic and its impact on the pharmacy network”, Mr Barclay told C+D.

“Community pharmacy, by its very model, is accessible and while that is undoubtedly a good thing, it does mean that it can be challenging in terms of patient expectations,” he added.

“Overall, the public is very understanding, but it can get out of hand when everyone is under pressure and tired in life. When I hear cases of abuse towards pharmacy teams, it is disheartening, given their contribution through these times and frankly unacceptable.

In August, the CPS called for a ‘temporary halt’ in the recruitment of pharmacy professionals for GP and primary care support positions, to avoid a further ‘labour drain’ into the sector.

“The simple fact is that there are not enough resources available to meet all the basic needs or ambitions of the three main areas of pharmacy practice in Scotland,” Mr Barclay told C+D. .

“We are aware that this is a complex and multi-faceted issue, with all stakeholders having to consider their impact in this area,” he added. “There is no silver bullet here, but we are considering all support measures that are within our control and influence.”

Wales: Contractors face ‘significant workforce challenges’

It’s a concern shared by Judy Thomas, director of contract services for Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW). The “biggest challenge” of 2021, she said, was the “significant labor challenges faced by contractors,” as well as the pressures community pharmacies face from “ the ongoing pandemic.

But Ms Thomas pointed to the new Welsh Community Pharmacy Framework, revealed last Thursday (December 16), as CPW’s biggest win of 2021.

Under the agreement, which will start from April 2022, funding for the new Community Pharmacy Clinical Service will increase from £11.4m to £20m a year by 2024. The government also pledged to increase funding for independent prescribing services from £1.2m to £20m. 20.2 million per year by 2024.

Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) has also “committed to providing a minimum of 60 independent prescriber training places with funded HEIW fees and funding to fill from 2022/23, and will also seek to expand this “, Ms. Thomas told C +. D.

Northern Ireland: Community pharmacy administered over 250,000 COVID injections

Meanwhile, for Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland (CPNI), it was the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination service that was the biggest success of 2021, chief executive Gerard Greene told C+D.

In just nine months since the community pharmacy began administering the first doses of the vaccine, the sector is now “the main enabler of the program across Northern Ireland”, he added.

As of Dec. 16, the community pharmacy had administered more than 254,000 COVID-19 vaccinations and exceeded 37,000 flu vaccinations, Greene told C+D.

But it is the shortage of pharmacy staff that Mr Greene highlighted as the biggest challenge of 2021 for CPNI.

Demand for basic services has “remained consistently above pre-pandemic levels for much of 2021. By scaling up to meet these demands, there has been lasting pressure on the workforce, which which has led to staff shortages,” he said.

Despite these challenges, however, “community pharmacists continue to go beyond patient care,” he added. “I would like to thank the network for their unwavering commitment to the public health of people across Northern Ireland.”

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