Why is the true value of pharmacy not recognised?

In our latest member voice article, locum pharmacist Phil Lawes questions why the true value of pharmacy is often not recognised. Phil also discusses how community pharmacy has adapted during the pandemic and outlines how the day job of a pharmacist has developed over time.

Mon 19th April 2021 The PDA

I am a community pharmacist with 38 years of experience as an employee, self-employed locum and NHS contractor. Over that time, I have witnessed many changes to pharmacists’ day jobs with an expansion in our professional responsibilities.

There have been positive and encouraging signs, for example, POM to P switches and the ‘new’ pharmacy contract introducing advanced and enhanced services so we could utilise our knowledge and expertise to conduct MURs and NMS. They can only improve a pharmacist’s perceived worth to both patients and paymasters. The Pharmacy Quality Scheme requires both pharmacists and staff to undertake additional training to expand the knowledge and the quality of services that are provided.

The Community Pharmacist Consultation Service along with access to the SCR are more useful tools that can be used to increase pharmacists perceived value to patients and the Department of Health (DOH). Many pharmacists will have trained and now conduct a flu vaccination service each year, which has been well received by those using it. Very recently the Discharge Medicines Service was introduced which makes use of a pharmacist’s unique skill sets.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, community pharmacies have remained open and have adapted rapidly to the new challenges they’ve faced. Community pharmacy remains completely unique in that a free consultation can be made with a pharmacist without an appointment six or even seven days a week.

With all the extra services and expertise pharmacists now provide, why is the true value of pharmacy not recognised by:

  • The DOH, when it comes to negotiations with contractors on renumeration?
  • Employers, in the salaries/hourly rate paid?
  • Members of Parliament when they omit pharmacy in their list of healthcare professionals?
  • The media, to whom pharmacists are invisible?
  • Some customers, who say “its only tablets”?

The true value of pharmacy should be reflected in the salary or locum rate. Sadly, I am working for the same hourly rate as I did 25 years ago. With the effect of annual inflation across that period that means I am now working for 39% less than I did in 1995. I know I am not alone in this experience, yet pharmacists are giving so much more and have so much to offer as healthcare professionals.

The profession of pharmacy is of course the responsibility of the individual professionals. The PDA and others can offer support, but pharmacists also have to do their own PR and apply pressure on their own paymasters to improve pay and conditions.

The PDA is working hard to improve pay for employee pharmacists and that should have a positive effect on locum rates in the future. If you are a pharmacist and have not joined the PDA yet, please consider membership and join forces with over 30,000 members of the profession.

By Phil Lawes, Locum Pharmacist


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