News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 11 November 2021

Media Coverage

Government has not helped wholesalers with labour shortages, warns HDA chief
Pharmacy Magazine, Neil Trainis, 10 November 2021

Pharmacy Magazine reports that HDA Executive Director, Martin Sawer, has warned that the pharmacy wholesale sector is enduring a labour shortage that could worsen if the Government does not step in.

While the current situation has not yet reached crisis point the whole system is under strain, deepening concerns over potential disruptions to the supply of medicines to pharmacies.

Martin Sawer said that: “There have been no initiatives from Government that have been of any benefit. We are still concerned about the long-term structure of supply in the next 12 months or so unless things change or improve”. He continued: “Our members are doing a remarkable job but I don’t want them to get exhausted and the cracks start to show because every company has a business continuity plan. The whole network works because it can deal with a crises and issues but if it goes on for years and years, that’s not a good thing.”

While the wholesalers represented by the HDA have “very strong, robust business continuity plans” he has urged the Government to come up with “something more structural to improve economically with the labour force”.

NHSE: Pharmaceutical supply chain a priority for decarbonisation
P3 Pharmacy, Editorial Staff, 10 November 2021

P3 Pharmacy reports on comments made at the HDA Annual Conference last week on the climate impact of the NHS supply chain.

Alexandra Hammond, Head of Sustainable Procurement and Supply Chain at NHS England and NHS Improvement said that: “The vast majority of the emissions in the NHS supply chain originate and impact in the UK. We can’t just outsource the responsibility to the wider supply chain and think the emissions fall in China or India.” She said that it was crucial that the NHS works in partnership with the supply chain: “This is not about NHS England saying ‘you have to do this’ to our suppliers”.

From the distribution sector, Matt Addison, Operations Director, Alliance Healthcare, gave some practical examples of work done to date in the business, such as recycling 3,000 tonnes of cardboard annually, removing more than 100 tonnes of plastic, signing a green only electricity deal in October 2020 and engaging with drivers to improving the efficiency of its HGV fleet.

Paul Bennett, Chief Executive of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said that sustainability had come to the fore in the RPS workplans last year. The RPS has now adopted a policy covering pharmacy’s role in climate action and sustainable healthcare.

Top GP blames low number of GP CPCS referrals on NHS bureaucracy
Chemist + Druggist, Eliza Loukou, 08 November 2021

The Chemist + Druggist reports on comments made by the British Medical Association (BMA) GP Committee Chair, Richard Vautrey at the HDA Annual Conference last week. He criticised the “bureaucracy” required for practices to send patients to their pharmacist under the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS).

He said that the low number of referrals was due to the “laborious process of filling out the referral form”. The time taken to complete the form lead to longer waiting times for other patients looking to be seen by a GP. Dr Vautrey called for “a much more streamlined arrangement” from the NHS that trusts general practice “to direct people to the right place” and in turn trusts pharmacies to deliver the appropriate services.

The need for a “walk-in service” was echoed by Alastair Buxton, Director of NHS Services at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee – who also spoke at the HDA conference.

This story was also included in Pharmacy Magazine, the Independent PharmacistP3 Pharmacy and Teaching Magazine.

Parliamentary Coverage

There was no parliamentary coverage today. 


Full Coverage

Government has not helped wholesalers with labour shortages, warns HDA chief
Pharmacy Magazine, Neil Trainis, 10 November 2021

Exclusive: Healthcare Distribution Association executive director Martin Sawer has warned the pharmacy wholesale sector is enduring a labour shortage that could worsen if the Government does not step in.

In an exclusive interview with Independent Community Pharmacist, Mr Sawer (pictured) said that while the current situation has not reached crisis point “the whole system is under strain,” deepening concerns over potential disruptions to the supply of medicines to pharmacies.

He said that without government support, which he claimed has not materialised so far, there was reason to worry about the “long-term structure of supply in the next 12 months”.

He revealed workforce shortages have resulted in some wholesalers using warehouse employees to drive forklifts and office staff to work in the warehouse but said that despite this “the system is still working”.

“There have been warnings to the pharmacy sector that some medicines may have to be prioritised because of the fuel problem or because of labour shortages,” he said.

“We’ve made strong representations to Government to give us a bit of a break, whether it’s to be more flexible on the apprenticeship scheme, be more flexible on access to drivers and nothing yet has happened.

“There have been no initiatives from Government that have been of any benefit. We are still concerned about the long-term structure of supply in the next 12 months or so unless things change or improve.

“Our members are doing a remarkable job but I don’t want them to get exhausted and the cracks start to show because every company has a business continuity plan. The whole network works because it can deal with a crises and issues but if it goes on for years and years, that’s not a good thing.”

‘Structural’ solutions needed

Mr Sawer said the wholesalers represented by the HDA have “very strong, robust business continuity plans” but urged the government to come up with “something more structural to improve economically with the labour force”.

“That is the way to do business when you’re dealing with medicines, you have plan Bs and never mind plan B, you’ve got plan C and D. So we’re not always on plan A. Office staff are sometimes in the warehouse, warehouse staff are sometimes driving and it’s OK at the moment,” he said.

“Pharmacies have access to hopefully more than one wholesaler so they can have some flexibility and that’s the in-built flexibility and resilience of the system. What I’m saying is we need something more structural to improve economically with the labour force.”

Demand for labour rising

Mr Sawer told ICP that the “critical work” of wholesale workers should be prioritised, adding that there has been “much more demand for warehouse staff” as the economy “goes much more online”.

He said he was encouraged by the government’s appointment of former Tesco CEO Sir David Lewis as its supply chain adviser until the end of the year but warned that swift action is needed.

“I wouldn’t use [the] word [crisis]. It’s not a crisis because we’ve coped. The fuel shortage was an extreme example and we believe there are ways of mitigating some of these problems and we’ve put some of those ideas to the government,” he said, adding that the HDA has had several meetings with Government officials.

“We’d like to see the Government respond before the situation becomes fixed. We can cope with it at the moment because it’s quite fluid but if the structural problem in the workforce becomes a challenge… we want to have a bit of comfort that the Government gives us some priority.”

NHSE: Pharmaceutical supply chain a priority for decarbonisation
P3 Pharmacy, Editorial Staff, 10 November 2021

Over 60 per cent of the NHS’s climate impact sits in its supply chains, and between a fifth and a quarter of that relates specifically to pharmaceuticals and chemicals, making the area a priority for decarbonisation, according to Alexandra Hammond, head of sustainable procurement and supply chain, NHS England and NHS Improvement.

Speaking to the Healthcare Distribution Association’s annual conference last week, Ms Hammond said: “The vast majority of the emissions in the NHS supply chain originate and impact in the UK. We can’t just outsource the responsibility to the wider supply chain and think the emissions fall in China or India.”

The NHS published its Net Zero report in October last year, making it the first health service in the world to declare a target for delivering net zero – 2040 for direct emissions including purchased energy and 2045 for indirect emissions such as inward freighting of goods.

Ms Hammond said that it is crucial that the NHS works in partnership with the supply chain: “This is not about NHS England saying ‘you have to do this’ to our suppliers.

“We want to understand what you are doing already, so we are enabling those changes, and pushing you in the right direction, but we want to learn from you, so we can scale up across other parts of the supply chain.”

Suppliers ‘happy with targets’

When surveyed last July, the NHS’s 80,000 suppliers were “pretty happy” with the proposals, Ms Hammond said. Some 76 per cent of trade bodies felt scopes one and two targets (direct emissions) for 2023 were achievable; 55 per cent felt the scope three targets (indirect emissions) for 2025 were achievable, while 57 per cent felt the product carbon footprint 2027 target was achievable.

“The net zero report included a statement that before the end of the decade the NHS will no longer purchase from suppliers that do not meet or exceed our commitment to net zero,” Ms Hammond said. The plan was put to, and accepted, by the NHS Board at the end of September.

“Essentially, by 2027, we want all suppliers to have declared carbon reduction targets, what you want to do, how you are going to deliver it, and we want to see progress against those targets too,” she said, adding: “We want to encourage a sea change of activity.” She promised a raft of support, including working groups, templates, sharing knowledge.

From the distribution sector, Matt Addison, operations director, Alliance Healthcare, gave some practical examples of work done to date in the business, such as recycling 3,000 tonnes of cardboard annually, removing more than 100 tonnes of plastic, signing a green only electricity deal in October 2020, engaging with drivers to achieve an 8 per cent improvement in miles per gallon, and improving the efficiency of its HGV fleet to reduce miles driven by 767,800 miles per annum.

RPS: A clear role for pharmacy teams

Paul Bennett, chief executive of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said that sustainability had come to the fore in the RPS workplans last year.

“Climate change is the most significant health threat that the human race is facing and pharmacists and pharmacy team members have a clear role to play,” Mr Bennett said.

“It is our role as the leadership body to raise the profile of the challenge and to facilitate collaboration. Our declaration includes clear commitments to lead the profession, support our members in the promotion and attainment of decarbonisation.”

The RPS has now adopted a policy covering pharmacy’s role in climate action and sustainable healthcare. “If we consider the life-cycle of a medicine, from design and development to production, prescription and consumption, pharmacy has an impact at every single stage,” Mr Bennett said. “Improving prescribing and medicine usage, tackling medicine waste, preventing ill health and working with the infrastructure and operating ways of working of pharmacy.”

Top GP blames low number of GP CPCS referrals on NHS bureaucracy
Chemist + Druggist, Eliza Loukou, 08 November 2021

The British Medical Association (BMA) GP committee chair has slammed the “bureaucracy” required for practices to send patients to their pharmacist under the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS).

Richard Vautrey called the low number of GP referrals under the CPCS a “missed opportunity” at the Healthcare Distribution Association’s (HDA) annual conference last week (November 4).

He blamed the low number of referrals on the “laborious process” of filling out the referral form, once a GP receptionist identifies that a patient would be best served by a pharmacist.

The “10 minutes” taken to complete the referral form lead to longer waiting times for other patients looking to be seen by a GP, and bring in “extra work that the practice didn’t have to do before” under local minor ailment schemes, Dr Vautrey added.

The CPCS referral system was “imposed” on GP practices, he continued.

“The NHS just loves creating bureaucracy,” Dr Vautrey said, which “inhibits the service that we’re able to provide”.

C+D reported in October that only 800 GP practices had signed up to refer patients to pharmacies under the service, despite the GP pathway of the CPCS being enabled from November 1 last year.

NHS England and NHS Improvement has called for GP practices to sign up to the CPCS service by December 1 in a bid to improve access to GP appointments.

“A more streamlined arrangement”

Dr Vautrey called for “a much more streamlined arrangement” that trusts general practice “to direct people to the right place” and in turn trusts pharmacies to deliver the appropriate services.

The need for a  “walk-in service” was echoed by Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee – who also spoke at the HDA conference.

Mr Buxton said such an option would be  “sensible” for alleviating the workload on GPs and combating health inequalities. This would tackle the issue of pharmacy contractors having to assist patients with informal GP referrals, for which – unlike the CPCS –  contractors cannot claim remuneration.

Dr Vautrey and Mr Buxton also called for pharmacists to be able to add information to summary care records, echoing the views shared by General Pharmaceutical Council chair Nigel Clarke at Pharmacy Show in October.

This story was also included in Pharmacy Magazine, the Independent PharmacistP3 Pharmacy and Teaching Magazine.

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 11 November 2021

From Factory to Pharmacy

As part of our mission to build awareness, understanding and appreciation of the vital importance of the healthcare distribution sector, we developed an infographic explaining the availability of medicines. It identifies the factors that can impact drug supply, as well as the measures that HDA members undertake day in, day out to help mitigate the risks of patients not receiving their medicines.

See the Infographic

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