Dear Mr Hancock,
I am writing this letter as I am seriously concerned about the future of Community Pharmacy.
I have worked as a Community Pharmacist for 22 years and I can honestly say that I have enjoyed all of those years. I love my job. I love the interaction with patients and the bond formed with my team as we strive every day to provide an efficient and caring service to our community. Unfortunately, I feel that this has started to change in the last few years since the funding to Community Pharmacy was drastically reduced.
All Community Pharmacies have been put under pressure due to the desire of the Government to force some to close. Pharmacies have had no choice but to respond by slashing staff hours and cutting services in an effort to ensure businesses can continue to function and serve their population. We care about our patients and we do not want to let them down but we are all reaching the limit of what we can provide.
In the past week, I have spoken to two young Community Pharmacists who have reached out on social media for help as they are at the end of their tether and don’t know where else to turn. I only know them through interaction online and I and other experienced pharmacists have done our best to offer help and advice but we can only do so much. How many other Community Pharmacists and their teams are suffering in silence and just trying to get through the day?
If the Government wants to close some Community Pharmacies then that is fair enough. I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact that there are some locations where there are too many, but why not target those locations and work with the pharmacies there to solve the problem? Why make all pharmacies suffer and reduce the quality of care in all of them?
Many people see the dispensing of prescriptions as being merely a supply function. Unless you have worked in Community Pharmacy it is difficult to appreciate the subtle nuances involved in the provision of a quality dispensing service. The casual conversation with the patient whilst they are waiting for their prescription that picks up on a health issue. The discrepancy in the patient records that prompts a conversation about their treatment and picks up on another issue. The years and years of interaction with a patient that isn’t recorded on a computer but plays a huge part in forming a bond of trust between us. All of these things and more are taken into consideration when we dispense a prescription. It is not merely a supply function.
Mr Hancock, you are so lucky. You have an amazing resource at your fingertips. You have a network of highly skilled healthcare professionals in Community Pharmacy who you can use to improve the health of the nation. I know that you want us to do more and we would love to, but we need the resources to do that. The Government needs to look again at how they are going to decide which pharmacies they would like to close because at the moment there is no plan and it could be any of us.
Community Pharmacy cannot continue to function under this pressure. Valued and highly trained staff are leaving to work in other, less pressured jobs. If you do not act now the Community Pharmacy network may soon be beyond repair.
A pharmacy is just a building. It is the people who work in that building that make it a Community Pharmacy and it those people that make a difference to patients lives every day. I know we don’t shout about it much but please do not underestimate the impact that Community Pharmacy has and how valued we are by our patients.
You would be very welcome to come and spend some time with us and see for yourself.
(This letter is my own personal view and is independent of any organisation I may be associated with)
96 Free School Lane