PSNC has increasingly relied on data to make the case for community pharmacy – both through the negotiations and more widely. 2020/21 saw a significant increase in the organised capture of useful data from contractors, and this must continue.
051 | Pharmacy advice audit / Summer 2020
Community pharmacies have long been promoted by the NHS as the first port of call for patients or members of the public with minor health concerns, and this role is being further cemented by the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS). But while CPCS consultations earn pharmacies a fee, consultations given to patients who simply walk in for advice are not specifically funded.
In the summer of 2020, PSNC sought to quantify these ‘informal consultations’ through an audit, asking pharmacies to record information about all of the consultations they carried out on a single day. More than 9,400 pharmacies took part and the results gave us a snapshot of the extraordinary part that pharmacies play in providing everyday support to their local communities.
The audit found that on average, every pharmacy spends around 75 minutes providing 15 patient consultations each day. Almost half of those patients said that if the pharmacy had not been there they would have visited their GP, meaning that pharmacies save around 492,000 GP appointments every week. This would not be manageable for general practice, and PSNC’s audit provided powerful data with which to explain to policy-makers and Government just how valuable the sector is.
‘According to the PSNC Pharmacy Advice Audit, pharmacies have been providing healthcare advice to more than 600,000 people every week. We owe a great debt to these underfunded and overworked pharmacies and their teams, who went above and beyond to relieve pressures on our NHS.’Holly Lynch, Labour MP for halifax, March 2021
052 | Pharmacy advice audit / Spring 2021
More than 5,800 pharmacies took part in a second audit in early 2021, between them recording data on almost 115,000 patient consultations. The results indicated an increasing reliance on pharmacies through the pandemic, with on average 17 daily consultations recorded by each pharmacy.
In this audit, 8.6% of people seeking advice from a pharmacy said they had been unable to access another part of the healthcare system: that is five million people per year. And almost half of patients said that if attending their pharmacy had not been a viable option, they would have visited their GP.
Taken together, the two audits provided a strong narrative about the extent of unpaid patient consultations taking place in pharmacies, strengthening PSNC’s arguments about the extent to which the NHS is continuing to rely on pharmacies.
They also clearly showed the positive impact that pharmacy’s open-door policy accepting face-to-face consultation for patients needing help had during the pandemic, both helping patients and reducing pressure elsewhere in the health service.
053 | COVID costs
In March 2020 PSNC began surveying contractors about the impact that COVID-19 was having on their businesses, as well as looking at the impact on prescription volumes and medicines supply. The monthly surveys captured the rising costs that businesses were facing, as well as giving some insight into the operational challenges that pharmacies were grappling with.
Data from PSNC was successfully used to argue for cashflow help for pharmacies and other financial support. It also formed the basis of PSNC’s case for contractors’ advance payment loans to be written off – in total we showed a COVID impact on the sector of more than £400m. By April 2021 we were still negotiating on this, having rejected an earlier Government offer of £120m to cover contractors’ costs: our data showed this would not have been sufficient.
054 | Funding uplift bid
Alongside the negotiations on COVID costs, in 2020/21 PSNC also put a bid to Government for a funding uplift for the sector. This was based on extensive financial analysis showing the ongoing operational costs for the sector along with the financial squeeze businesses were facing. Ultimately, that bid was rejected, but we are continuing to press these points in the Annual Review process, as we look back on the successes and challenges of the five-year CPCF to date.