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Agenda item

Resilience of Community Pharmacies

Purpose: To present the findings of the ICB’s study of the resilience of community pharmacies in West Berkshire.


Julie Dandridge (Head of Pharmacy, Optometry and Dentistry, BOB ICB) presented the item on the Resilience of Community Pharmacies (Agenda Item 9).

The Chairman invited David Dean (Chief Officer, Community Pharmacy Thames Valley (CPTV)) to comment. CPTV had been working closely with the owner of the new independent pharmacies in West Berkshire and had been impressed by their enthusiasm and willingness to work with local communities. They were more flexible and helpful than the larger chains (e.g. free deliveries outside the NHS contract). They were signing up to new initiatives such as Pharmacy First and were investing in their workforce. Some were being held back by the size of their premises, but they were investigating extensions or even automated lockers to allow people to pick up prescriptions outside of opening hours.

Key points raised in the debate included:

·       It was stressed that the Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment (PNA) should be about more than the distance that patients had to travel. Community pharmacies were able to deliver a greater range of services than when the PNA had been produced, so the ICB needed to think of community pharmacy in a new context.

·       It was noted that new development would create additional demand, and the resilience and sustainability of pharmacies needed to be considered when reviewing new applications.

·       There was agreement that independent pharmacies had a ‘can do’ attitude and brought new opportunities for neighbourhood working.

·       Members had received complaints about one particular pharmacy attached to a GP surgery. These related to waiting times, patients not being able to use the NHS app for repeat prescriptions, and patients being prevented from taking their prescriptions to other pharmacies. The pharmacy was only open standard hours, so access was an issue for those working away from the village. It was confirmed that it was illegal to restrict patients to one pharmacy. It was also suggested that processes at the pharmacy could be reviewed to reduce waiting times (e.g., the surgery could upload stable repeat prescriptions for several months at a time onto the system). Dealing with every prescription as a ‘walk-in’ was inefficient.

Action: Councillor Heather Codling to email David Dean with the details so they could provide advice and support.

·       It was suggested that there were opportunities for cross-promotion of the Pharmacy First and Community Wellness Outreach Service.

Action: April Peberdy to consider how best to cross-promote services.

·       Concerns were raised about the ability of pharmacies to accommodate additional demands resulting from Pharmacy First when they were already at capacity, particularly for pharmacies with large populations of older people who needed more time per consultation. It was explained that labelling and dispensing of prescriptions was becoming simpler and more automated, freeing up time for initiatives such as Pharmacy First, which was what the pharmacists had trained for.

·       Concerns were also raised about over-reliance on digital tools (e.g., NHS App), and how patients who were not digitally enabled would be supported. It was explained that digital tools allowed pharmacies to plan ahead and dispense in quieter times. A recent PPG event had been used to show the NHS app to patients and this had been very successful, but it was recognised that the app would not suit everyone. Also, it was stressed that 95% of digital services were not patient-facing and were designed to give pharmacists more time. For some pharmacists these had freed up as much as 3 hours per day for pharmacists to spend with patients.

·       Members asked about how rural residents would be served by Pharmacy First if they were unable to get to a pharmacy. It was acknowledged that a home service was not currently offered, but Pharmacy First was offered remotely and patients could also use online pharmacies. It was suggested that the voluntary and community sector could be used to identify patients who were struggling to access pharmacy services and to work out how best to help them.

·       It was suggested that the Community Wellness Outreach Project should be seen as just a starting point to help counter digital exclusion. The PPG event was seen as a good way of making digital real for patients. It was stressed that traditional means of accessing services would be retained. Encouraging some people to switch to digital would mean that other patients would have a better service.

·       It was noted that older patients may find it difficult to access digital services because they had a shared email address with their partner and the NHS app required individual email accounts.

RESOLVED to note the report.

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