The evolving role of community pharmacy, says Amish Patel, who runs Hodgson Pharmacy in Longfield


Community pharmacies are serving their customers in more ways than ever before, but will need to continue to adapt to thrive in a post-pandemic world.

That’s according to Amish Patel, who has been a pharmacist for over 12 years and runs the Hodgson Pharmacy in Longfield.

Amish Patel runs the Hodgson Pharmacy in Longfield

Based in the Station Road business his father started in the 1980s, he explains the growing role “chemists” or “drug addicts”, as they are more often called, play in the local community.

“Today, as in the old days, pharmacies are about people, not just pills,” he said.

“In addition to offering advice and treatment for minor ailments such as a runny nose, rashes and stomach aches, a pharmacist will refer you to an appointment with the general practitioner or the hospital if anything. thing needs to be considered further.

“We have also taken on new roles in public health such as influenza vaccinations, emergency care and the management of long-term medical conditions.”

And now Amish, a board member for the National Pharmacy Association, says they are also filling in the gaps left by some services that patients struggle to access.

Hodgson Pharmacy at Station Road, Longfield Photo: Simon Hildrew
Hodgson Pharmacy at Station Road, Longfield Photo: Simon Hildrew

He explains how some customers are now turning to stores in desperation for certain treatments.

One of its most popular private procedures is micro-suction for earwax removal to treat hearing loss.

“We help patients who are quite desperate,” he said. “When you can’t hear and you have this pain, you are desperate.”

Used effectively, pharmacies can take the strain off parts of the healthcare system, he adds.

“Community pharmacy is increasingly integrated into the wider NHS, working as a team to provide ongoing patient care,” he said.

“We are avoiding hospital admissions and millions of unnecessary GP appointments, relieving the burden on health services.”

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Pharmacist Amish Patel says role of community pharmacies is constantly evolving

But the coronavirus has been the biggest test of all.

“With GP offices, opticians and dentists forced to suspend services or provide care remotely, many patients have turned to pharmacy teams for face-to-face help,” Amish said. .

“We have met the challenges head-on despite a massive increase in the workload. “

At the onset of the pandemic, this largely meant challenges in ensuring regular access to appropriate PPE.

Soon after, they were faced with problems related to shortages of certain drugs and products.

This led in some cases to confrontations between staff and some customers who the Amish believed lacked appreciation for the vital work they were doing.

“We have met the challenges head-on despite a massive increase in the workload. “

“I have had staff members in tears,” he said. “We understand frustration from a patient’s perspective, but everyone is just trying to do their job.”

Over a year later, he says one of the biggest challenges they face is funding.

Community pharmacists received a £ 300million boost from the government last year to provide essential services, including the administration of life-saving medicines and supplies.

This has helped them manage costs, Amish says, but as footfall declines he fears that many protection clients are staying away despite assurances he is sure to return.

“I feel like we are in a halfway house,” he said. “We need to keep Covid safe, it hasn’t gone missing.”

He added, “Whatever happens in the future, we will always remain committed to this community and the patients who rely on us.”

Some staff took the brunt of the wrath of customers during the height of the pandemic.
Some staff took the brunt of the wrath of customers during the height of the pandemic.

Pharmacists are now trained for five years before they can qualify, and strict regulations, including inspections, ensure that high standards are maintained.

Last year Dartford MP Gareth Johnson called on the Prime Minister to increase the powers of “these gems on our main street” to ease the strain on the healthcare system.

Speaking in the House of Commons last September, he said: “Pharmacists want to be able to offer treatment in more situations than is currently allowed and people seem to want to, so we have to allow that to happen.

“There has never been a more appropriate time to push for a trial to allow pharmacists to dispense routine medications, which were previously only available from general practitioners. “

In the weeks and months to come, pharmacists may have a more active role to play in the deployment of the vaccine.

Currently, Longfield clients are covered by a main vaccination center located over 20 miles from the Excel Center in London, Amish said, but he is making preparations in case they are called upon to help alongside their regular clinics against winter flu.

Advances in technology also mean that most prescriptions are now electronic and pharmacists can access elements of electronic patient care records to maximize medication safety.

“Pharmacies will still provide responsive, personalized, face-to-face service in the community, but can now also offer the convenience of online ordering and digital communication with patients,” he said.

“Who knows where digital developments can take us in the future? We hope that they will allow us to get closer to our patients, to be even more effective and to offer more and more personalized treatments.”

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