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'A pharmacy without a pharmacist is a shop', Royal Pharmaceutical Society president tells annual conference

Addressing delegates at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society annual conference, president Martin Astbury stressed the importance of maintaining the quality of pharmaceutical services for patients as new technologies and laws are introduced. 

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Source: Harriet Adcock / The Pharmaceutical Journal

Royal Pharmaceutical Society president Martin Astbury says further technological advances and legislative changes in pharmacy must maintain a high standard of pharmaceutical care and patient safety

Any further technological advances and legislative changes in pharmacy must maintain a high standard of pharmaceutical care and patient safety and must not lead to the removal of pharmacists from the high street, Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) president Martin Astbury said in his opening address to delegates at the annual RPS conference on 4 September 2016.

“Can we replace the community pharmacy network with an Amazon-style operation? Possibly, but, the value of having an expert health professional on the high street will be lost… that’s not making the best use of technology or the profession in my view,” he said.

Astbury added that any changes made to the rules that govern the supervision of medicines supply from pharmacies should ensure that pharmacists continue to supervise the sale and supply of medicines. “It would be totally inappropriate for anyone other than a pharmacist to supervise the sale and supply of either prescription or pharmacy medicines,” he said.

“The RPS believes that legislation should make it compulsory for a pharmacist to be present whenever a community pharmacy is open, a pharmacy without a pharmacist is a shop.”

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Source: Julia Robinson / The Pharmaceutical Journal

Astbury warned that leaders of the pharmacy profession risked ‘talking down’ the supply function performed by pharmacists when attempting to ‘talk up’ new clinical roles

Astbury acknowledged the new models of care happening across England, Scotland and Wales, but highlighted that changes in law, technology and funding will all be important factors in whether or not the models are welcomed.

Referring to the proposed cuts to community pharmacy funding in England, which he described once again as “unwelcome and short-sighted”, he emphasised the importance of recognising the scrutiny and pressure that community pharmacy is currently under.

“It disappoints me enormously when I hear leaders of our profession, although attempting to talk up the new clinical roles that we all believe in, talking down the supply role that we do – they’re talking down the fact that we dispense 1 billion prescriptions safely each year,” he said.

Although expressing concern for the future of the profession, Astbury added that he hoped ongoing work to gain additional resources through the pharmacy integration fund, proposed as part of the government’s plans for the community pharmacy sector and worth £300m by 2020–21, will lead to positive investment for the future of pharmacy.

He also reflected on the success of the RPS ‘pharmacists in GP practice’ campaign after NHS England announced a £112m investment in new roles for pharmacists in GP surgeries in England, earlier this year, and now similar plans are in place to base more pharmacists in GP surgeries in Scotland and Wales.

Astbury also went on to update delegates on the RPS’s focus on science, research and education and the guidance available for members in these areas, including the RPS Roadmap, which sets out a career pathway for pharmacy professionals, and a new mentoring service that guides pharmacists through the various stages of their career.

Finally, Astbury explained the next steps in the Society’s journey from a royal society to a royal college and called for the support of members through the change.

“Royal colleges presume we are analogous to them, we are, we are performing at that level. The RPS is a professional body and royal college,” he said. “The next question is would our members be interested in the RPS having a name change?”

  • This article was amended on 4 September 2016 to reflect changes made to the speech delivered at the conference, which differed from the speech originally supplied to The Pharmaceutical Journal.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20201655

Readers' comments (5)

  • I don't think anybody working in high street bookshops or record shops (remember them?) wanted to see the demise of their businesses either. There was no central policy or legislation that brought about the change - they failed to adapt to a changing market and consumer preferences. Comparing the supply of books or records to the supply of medicines obviously trivialises the essential role that the pharmacist can play in delivering high-quality pharmaceutical care. But we need to add value to our interactions with our patients - if we only ever act like shopkeepers in the eyes of our customers, then we may as well be working in a shop.

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  • Absolutely true, and this becomes more threatening in developing, and underdeveloped countries!

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  • Rosario Sorrentino

    The future of our profession depends how many we believe in it ! . Our role is fondamental any level, but we must to increase clinical roles and to be able to manage new change and challenge. We must to improve trust our patients and customers, but also to give new ideas and suggestion our association and government organization. Other that to supply, our distinction it's that to add all the value of our knowledge and experience, than with engagement we do.
    Rosario Sorrentino

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  • Medication should only be sold or dispensed under the supervision of a pharmacist. The argument that technology supplants this idea, is no more valid than an aeroplane pilot being completely supplanted by an autopilot, in the end, when it is people's health at stake, there has to be somebody suitability qualified to take control and to accept responsibility. The funding that pharmacies receive does not only cover dispensing, it subsidises the access of appropriate over the counter treatment and advice that millions of people benefit from every year. They would be the ones to suffer without this type of 'walk-in' access to community pharmacy, and so too the emergency services, which are already at stretching point. Funding should be extended to train Phamacists and expand their roles, but this should not be at the expense of closing down access to community pharmacy, which is what will happen should these cuts go through.

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  • True and welsaid also smart.
    Like Sri Lanka the role of a community pharmacists are just hanging on the wall with smile face.
    The regulatory body and medical practioners well known this but nothing improved.
    The saddest part is most of the Dr do not know who or value of a pharmacist.
    They assume that just selling (not dispensing because dispensing means with necessary advises) according to their readable or unreadable writing.
    Even we do not have pharmacy council in our country and the professional body has no voice.

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  • RPS president Martin Astbury

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