Scotland’s cross-party health and sport committee has published a damning report of the country’s system of supply and demand for medicines in which it says community pharmacists are “failing to exploit their skills, knowledge and position for the benefit of patients”.
The report says the system of medicines supply in Scotland “does not have a focus on patients” and is instead “burdened” by a range of factors including public sector bureaucracy, under-resourcing and an “almost complete absence of useable data”.
Throughout the system there is worryingly little effort to understand patients’ experience of taking medicines, the committee claims, arguing that collecting and sharing this data “would be the single most beneficial action to result from this inquiry”.
The committee urges the Scottish Government to consider the IT requirements of the NHS across the country and develop long-term solutions “as a matter of urgency”.
The report accuses prescribers in Scotland of “instinctively reaching for the prescription pad” without properly discussing medicines with patients or making them “equal partners” in their treatment.
While community pharmacists are described as having a clear and well defined role in dispensing medicines, the committee reports that a “lack of structure surrounding their relationships with both patients and the health services means they are failing to exploit their skills, knowledge and position for the benefit of patients”.
“Discussions on whether and how medicines were taken, and the effects of these, are at best being recorded on Post It notes and at worst disappearing without record… patients expect and deserve a better system than this.”
The report argues that community pharmacists need access to patients’ medical records “in order to optimise their role” and to tackle a range of factors including polypharmacy and medicines wastage.
Speaking to Pharmacy Network News, Community Pharmacy Scotland’s director of operations Matt Barclay acknowledged the need to capture data on pharmacist-patient interactions “more routinely” but said this was “evolving already” with the new NHS Pharmacy First service.
The report also calls for pharmacy technicians to be given responsibility for procuring medicines: “We are clear the issue of how pharmacy staff time is used in primary care is inefficient and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
“In community pharmacy settings, we suggest this includes removing the role of sourcing the cheapest medicines from pharmacists who, to improve efficiency, ought to be spending time sharing clinical expertise with patients.”
CPS’ Matt Barclay said team members other than the pharmacist “can generally deal with this” but said pharmacists should still have oversight around the supply chain.