Cormac’s view: protect and enhance community pharmacy, release the genius within pharmacists

Our managing director Cormac Tobin shares his views on the ‘intangible value of community pharmacy’.

While GPs’ surgeries are becoming increasingly overcrowded and the NHS continues to face added pressure – community pharmacy should be heralded as a beacon of light that can ease the strain and offer a viable alternative for minor ailments and primary care.

May’s Dispensing Health Equality report by Pharmacy Voice offers valuable insights into how community pharmacy is addressing health inequalities. One of the key issues is that deprived areas are suffering from a lack of GP availability. This research indicated that one in four people who would normally seek advice from their local pharmacy would go straight to a GP if their pharmacy closed. This figure is considerably higher in deprived areas.

Therefore, in these communities especially, local pharmacy is playing a vital role in delivering primary care. And, rather than diminish these services, as could be the case if the Government’s proposed funding cuts go through, pharmacy should be enhanced to build even more meaningful, intimate relationships with customers.

Our pharmacists are integral parts of the communities they serve – not because of their expertise, but also for their knowledge and understanding of the area and the patients that come into store. They are recognisable, friendly faces and play a key role in the health and well-being of local people.

One of our LloydsPharmacy stores from Winson Green in Birmingham is a perfect example of how we’re establishing these close links. The team between them can speak 11 languages – which enables them to reach out to their multi-cultural community. Pharmacist Clement Chapajong and his team are renowned for the range of high quality services they offer to the diverse demographic, and they’re proud of the relationships they have built up.

Clement told me, “I have had patients come to our pharmacy from other parts of Birmingham just because they have heard that there is a healthcare professional who can communicate in their language.”

So what is it that really gives customers and patients reason to visit community pharmacy?

It’s not just about geographical location or convenience; it’s not just because of off-road car parking or handy bus routes. Of course that all helps, but we believe what really compels people to come back to us, is the unique, personal relationship and trust that they share with our pharmacy teams.

If you’re fortunate enough to be in good health and not require regular prescription medicine, you may not be familiar with the close relationship between pharmacist and patient, and the vital advice provided by pharmacists up and down the country.

That’s the real intangible value of community pharmacy.

Pharmacists are traditionally the most undervalued resource in the healthcare system, and hopefully the ‘Support your local pharmacy’ campaign has started to address that. It’s clear from the incredible reaction to the campaign, and from the two million signatures on the petition, that patients want to protect and fight for these services.

Pharmacists are highly skilled healthcare professionals and certainly the most accessible. What happens if we start to take that away? Let’s not reduce their presence – it’s time to release the genius within pharmacists.