Pharmacy Advice Audit: Help gather critical evidence

Community Pharmacy England will shortly be asking pharmacy owners and their teams to help us measure the increasing number of people relying on pharmacies.

Years of financial and operational pressures are continuing to take their toll on the sector, with many community pharmacy businesses being pushed to the brink. Whilst the £645m recovery plan funding has been a much-needed investment: it is not enough.

We knew that the launch of Pharmacy First could lead to a ‘halo’ effect of ever-more people seeking advice from community pharmacies – some of which falls outside of the funded service – and this is supported by recent sector polling. It is critical that we get an accurate picture of how much of this is taking place.

Sustainable funding is vital for the future, and we need to conduct an audit to help us make the case for increased funding for the sector and for the further services the Government needs pharmacies to deliver.

As part of the Pharmacy Advice Audit next month, Community Pharmacy England will ask pharmacy teams to record information about the informal healthcare advice that they are giving over the course of a single day, with the results providing a critical measurement of the levels of unfunded care that the public receives from community pharmacies. This will help to capture the sheer volume of support being provided that is not covered by the Pharmacy First service.

The results will be of great benefit to our campaigning and lobbying work in the coming months. This data will be used directly in our negotiations with Government and the NHS, as well as in our wider conversations with MPs, Ministers, and in national media work.

Due to launch in w/c 3rd June 2024, we hope to receive audit submissions from as many pharmacies as possible. We would be very grateful to anyone able to take part – the more pharmacies who are able to do so, the stronger our evidence is.

The importance of previous audits

Similar audits run during the COVID-19 pandemic recorded increasing levels of public reliance on community pharmacies. The huge number of pharmacy owners who took part meant that we had compelling evidence to explain just how valuable the sector is for use in funding negotiations. This powerful data helped Community Pharmacy England to make our case for COVID-19 costs and push for a funded walk-in pharmacy advice service, which became Pharmacy First.

The results also had a much wider reach: our 2022 Advice Audit was the subject of an exclusive article in the Sunday Telegraph and a key focus in a Parliamentary debate on pharmacy held in the same week. This year’s audit will once again provide critical evidence not only for use in funding discussions, but also as a vital tool in helping to persuade MPs and others to support our case for increased and sustained investment and support for community pharmacies.

How the audit will work

Commencing on Monday 3rd June, pharmacies will be asked to record data about patients seeking informal advice (outside of the Pharmacy First service) over the course of any single day within a two-week period. The audit has been designed to be as straightforward for pharmacy teams as it can be and full instructions will be made available shortly.

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Janet Morrison, Chief Executive, Community Pharmacy England, said:

“Since Pharmacy First was first touted, our Committee thought it may have a ‘halo effect’ in driving more people to pharmacies for health care information and advice that does not meet the gateway criteria for a paid consultation. Pharmacy owners are telling us that this is already the case, so it’s critical that we measure this – and quickly. The Pharmacy Advice Audit is an important tool in gathering evidence of the efforts and value of community pharmacy teams across the country.

The data you provide will show Government the huge amount of unpaid work pharmacy teams do for the NHS, demonstrating the situation clearly to decision makers and those who influence them. We know that evidence like this is persuasive, with the results of previous audits being covered in the national media and quoted by MPs in Parliament. They formed part of our business case for Pharmacy First – which of course led to the commissioning of the service. As we work to monitor the implementation of Pharmacy First and set the building blocks for the future CPCF, such data will be of critical importance.

I would therefore ask all pharmacies to take part in this audit if they can – we’ve made it as easy as we can to do so, and would like to receive as many responses as possible to help strengthen our calls and cases for more investment and support for pharmacies. This invaluable evidence will greatly improve our chances of gaining traction through our campaigning and lobbying work. Thank you in advance for your participation.”

Capture healthcare advisory work not being covered by Pharmacy First to inform our negotiations with Government and NHS.

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