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Community pharmacy

Community pharmacy must find its place away from 'shampoo and combs', says NHS Confederation boss

The future of pharmacy is “more about primary care than it is about selling shampoo and combs”, according to Niall Dickson, chief executive of NHS Confederation.

Woman shopping in pharmacy


Niall Dickson, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, noted that the revenue acquired from retail is “proportionally very small compared with what comes from dispensing”

The future of community pharmacy should see more involvement with primary care rather than “selling shampoo and combs”, Niall Dickson, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, has said.

Speaking at a Westminster Health Forum conference on implementing the ‘NHS Long Term Plan’ on 5 March 2019, Dickson said the sector needed to address “a more fundamental question” about its business model as the “tide of history” has moved away from local businesses.

The ‘NHS Long Term Plan’ and subsequently published GP contract both set out plans to pay GPs to employ pharmacists as part of larger multidisciplinary teams.

However, representative bodies for community pharmacy said in February 2019 that the plans have left the sector “keen to understand how community pharmacy can fill this role”.

Responding to a question on the role of community pharmacy in implementing the plan, Dickson said: “What is the business model going forward? Let’s assume for the moment that I’m right, and the vast majority of people would rather have their repeat drugs just delivered to them and they’ll have check-ups and so forth. Then we’ve got this group of people — pharmacists in general — who are frankly underused in terms of their amazing skills, although we’ve got to find a proper place for them.”

He added that while “there is a future for community pharmacy in various forms … it has to be about plugging into primary care and being a part of that” through medicines reviews and other “fantastic interventions”.

“My view is that it’s more about primary care than it is about selling shampoo and combs,” he said.

Responding to Dickson’s comments, Simon Dukes, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, said delivery of repeat prescriptions to patients’ homes “might be fine for some patients but clearly not for all”.

He said: “More importantly, it’s about how to build the capacity into community pharmacy to deliver some of the services that clearly our customers and NHS England want and those are the things that we should be focusing on.

“Through the use of automation, through discussions about supervision, to free up the ability for all community pharmacists to conduct some of those clinical skills that clearly are required.”

He added that the “shampoo and combs comment is wheeled out on a regular basis”, with revenue acquired from retail “proportionally very small compared with what comes from dispensing”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20206254

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