In what is a constantly changing environment for pharmacy, John Pignone, sales director at Alliance Healthcare, urged delegates at the Avicenna conference (today 24 October) to “be bold and be brave”.
Appreciating that pharmacy is facing many market challenges outside of its control – from stock shortages, Brexit, and changes to supply models, to NHS financial strains, revalidation and threats from automation – Mr Pignone told delegates that pharmacy has to adapt. “Pharmacy has to adapt, diversify, be agile and reposition itself. You are a room full of entrepreneurs, change is nothing to be scared of. You’ve done it before.”
However, in what was a common theme of the conference, Mr Pignone insisted that where there is change there is opportunity. “How you respond is what is important,” he said, “as a sector, community pharmacy has not yet reached its full potential. Reposition, develop and demonstrate the value of community pharmacy.”
This could be done in four ways, he explained: move away from a strictly dispensing model and deliver value added services; embrace new technology and digital developments, including social media; diversifying; and demonstrating that community pharmacy should be the first point of contact for patients seeking healthcare advice.
Community pharmacy is already making a difference to patients and demonstrating cost effective outcomes, said Mr Pignone, who gave three particularly positive examples. “In a recent NHS England flu vaccination survey of 100,000 patients who had their vaccination at a pharmacy last year, 99.9 per cent said they would do it again.” Mr Pignone also cited NHS Digital statistics on the electronic prescription service which has saved the NHS £130 million in the last three years, prescribers £327 million and saves both prescribers and patients significant time. What's more, he said, the Community Pharmacy Future project concluded that the NHS could save over £470 million each year if healthcare service were rolled out to more than 11,000 pharmacies across England.
Community pharmacy needs to present “win-win-win solutions for the NHS, patients and community pharmacy” said Mr Pignone concluding his speech: “You are in a unique position to make a difference to patients and demonstrate cost effective outcomes for the NHS and Department of Health.”