World news wrapup: 3 June 2021

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New UK data shows pharmacy’s worth; Kiwis worried about discount impact; UK pharmacies to be “decimated” by online competitors

UK: More than 1.1 million informal consultations a week – or 58 million a year – are conducted by community pharmacy teams in England, according to PSNC’s 2021 Pharmacy Advice Audit.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committe has published the findings of an audit of almost 6,000 community pharmacies held earlier this year, alongside a series of resources to promote the value of pharmacy advice.

During the audit 114,898 informal patient consultations were recorded, with the average pharmacy carrying out around 17 consultations per day. 

The audit results indicate that every week pharmacies help more than 730,000 people seeking advice for symptoms and more than 263,000 people about an existing medical condition. In almost a quarter of these informal consultations (24%), people seek advice about COVID-19.

Pharmacy teams were able to provide expert advice to 97% of those who sought it, with just over half (54%) also leading to the sale of a medicine. The average staff time per consultation was just over five minutes. 

However, during this audit, 61% of pharmacies reported being under intense pressure, with an average score of 7.66 out of 10 given for pharmacy pressure.

Almost half of people seeking advice said without pharmacy to turn to they would have attended a GP practice, and 8.6% said they had already been unable to access another part of the healthcare system. A further 9% and 2.5% of consultations were the product of informal referrals from General Practice and NHS111.

The audit showed that every week unpaid pharmacy advice is preventing 70,000 people from going to A&E or an NHS walk-in centre and saving more than 74 appointments for every single GP practice across England, says PSNC.

Extrapolating the results of the audit, PSNC has found that:

More than 58 million informal healthcare consultations are provided by pharmacists and their teams every year;

Every year 44 million patients self-refer to a pharmacist and their team for healthcare advice, with 5 million unable to access other healthcare;

Pharmacies have remained open during the pandemic with 1 in 4 consultations involving advice relating to COVID-19;

Informal consultations provided by pharmacists and their teams save more than 24 million GP appointments every year; and

61% of pharmacies reported being under intense pressure due to growing demand unmatched by funding.


Gisborne, New Zealand: With the opening of a new Countdown supermarket imminent, community pharmacies are worries about their future, reports the Gisborne Herald.

The supermarket will have an in-store pharmacy which will offer free scripts, absorbing the NZ$5 (AUD$4.68) standard prescription charge.

Community pharmacies in the North Island city wrote to the district health Hauora Tairawhiti and asked it to introduce transparent criteria to the local contracting policy, including being able to show that there was currently an unmet need.

This approach was unsuccessful.

A spokesperson for the local community pharmacy sector said that the Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand had recently met with Health Minister Andrew Little, highlighting that community pharmacy and its role is endangered by business and workforce issues.

“Financial pressures have been driven by a lack of recognition of cost pressures facing community pharmacy services over a decade due to health board deficits and financial pressure when discount pharmacy chains open nearby,” the spokesman said.

“A growing number of these pharmacies are losing market share to the big retail chains, leading to smaller pharmacies cutting services and opening hours, discounter chains waiving the $5 government co-payment for commercial gain and the Covid-19 pandemic, which reduced retail sales and increased costs.”


UK: Community pharmacies across the UK are up against possible “decimation” by online competitors such as Amazon Pharmacy, according to ThisIsMoney.

Tom Witherow for the Daily Mail writes that as patients have moved online to buy medicines due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacies on high streets may be forced to close – thus robbing others of face-to-face relationships with their pharmacists.

According to 2020 figures from EY, a third of family-owned pharmacies are making a loss – and this was predicted to grow to 72% over the next four years.

“These businesses are at risk of going under,” Leyla Hannbeck, from the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, told ThisIsMoney.


Ireland: Community pharmacists in Ireland are set to begin vaccinating against COVID-19 this month, reports

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said in the Seanad on Monday that the rollout will be extended to community pharmacies in June.

Darragh O’Loughlin, secretary general of the Irish Pharmacy Union, took to the airwaves to welcome the announcement, saying that pharmacists had to date felt frustration at being excluded from the program so far.

He told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that more than 1,000 stores had applied to be part of the program, and that they would be involved by administering a “small amount” of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson jab to people aged over 50 who had not been able to get to vaccination centres.

He said that the accessibility of community pharmacy was a plus, and would help overcome vaccine hesitancy.

Pharmacists will be paid €25 (AUD$39.41) per dose and €10 (AUD$15.76) per patient, at the same rate as GPs.

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