Community pharmacist contractors have welcomed the recent news that the proposed funding cuts to the sector are to be delayed. Pharmacy Minister David Mowat has confirmed that plans to implement a 6% cut to community pharmacy funding from October are currently on hold, pending further review. In his speech at the RPS annual conference, Mowat said: “I think it’s right that we spend the time, particularly for me as an incoming minister, to make sure that we’re making the correct decision and that what we do is going to be right for you, for the NHS and for the public.”
The announcement has drawn a new sense of optimism from many leading pharmacy figures; Sandra Gidley, chair of the RPS English Pharmacy Board, described being “heartened that a second look is being taken at the proposed community pharmacy cuts”. Meanwhile, NPA Chairman Ian Strachan congratulated Mowat for “taking advice to pause and reflect, and not simply wave through the discredited policy proposals that he inherited.”
While the apparent “turnaround” from the Government is a positive sign, it doesn’t rule out the possibility of funding cuts and reform entirely, and indeed the recent announcement of a funding package to be implemented in December signals this. At the risk of dampening celebrations, several figureheads have come forward to warn against any complacency as community pharmacists are urged not to rest on their laurels. Speaking to Chemist & Druggist, Boots UK’s chief pharmacist Marc Donovan said that the suggestion of community pharmacy having to operate with less funding is still very much “on the table” and this threat should now be used as impetus to redesign pharmacy services of the future.
Indeed, pharmacists should view this temporary respite as an opportunity to reassess their operational models and processes in preparation for when cuts do inevitably come into force (in whatever form they may take), with a goal of improving customer service (and loyalty) and maximising income opportunities to ensure survival. In particular, the next few months are a good time for contractors to review their pharmacy IT systems, which can help in achieving these goals. Here’s our suggestions on three key areas to consider.
- PMR system reliability
A robust and reliable PMR system is essential to the smooth running of a pharmacy, particularly when it comes to reducing the risk of major outages. In particular, it is important that central points of weakness in the PMR system’s infrastructure are avoided. If your current service is reliant on a central component within its IT set-up, this greatly increases the probability of a longer period of down time. Using a local message broker set-up, such as the one behind our Analyst PMR system, to deliver the service, for example, reduces the critical importance of central servers and components and results in a system that is much less likely to be interrupted.
- The use of rule-based order management systems to ensure profitable purchasing
Rule-based pharmacy order management systems are useful in helping to streamline activities and create savings. Their key benefit is that they maximise profit by ensuring compliance to buying protocols such as generics schemes, and automatically substituting DTP/RWM lines with profitable parallel import alternatives.
Software such as Positive Solution’s OrderManager enables pharmacists to setup and refine stock ordering rules according to preference and requirements, giving complete control over where items are ordered from and which suppliers are used. Because rule-based order processing systems will search for all alternative products / suppliers for each line on an order, the pharmacy is less likely to experience ‘out of stock’ lines. Furthermore, preferences can be set to cap the prices paid for specific items, ensuring that supplies are always purchased within budget and at the most competitive prices. The time saved in automating the ordering process could be effectively utilised to deliver services and improve patient outcomes.
- Effective stock-control for OTC products
Where retail sales are concerned it’s essential that pharmacists stock the most profitable and best-selling lines within each product category. A robust electronic point of sale (EPoS) system with enhanced functionality can help to grow over-the-counter (OTC) sales and deliver targeted promotions. Our Analyst ePoS system can be used to monitor existing sales data to ensure that pharmacies only stock items that are relevant to their demographic, thus preventing money from being tied up in unwanted stock.