The most obvious selling point remains dispensing fees. “You have a huge number of elderly patients on an average of eight to 10 drugs,” says Graham Stretch, senior practice-based pharmacist and independent prescriber at Ealing GP Federation in London. “In business terms, what you’ve got is a market you can develop. There are clearly substantial numbers of items that can be gained from engaging with care homes.”
Supplying nursing and care homes can involve a fair amount of unpaid work – such as organising dosette boxes – which can be time-consuming and expensive. Yet, says Mr Stretch, this supply function only represents “a fairly basic service”.
“The vast majority of services offered from community pharmacy [are based on the assumption that] the be-all-and-end-all is the plastic trays delivered by the driver. It doesn’t support the nurses and patients,” he says.
There’s no doubt that many care home staff and residents could benefit from more input from pharmacists into their medicines management, but this requires funding for the time and training involved. As Mr Stretch puts it: “How do you solve the money question?”
Care homes can benefit from pharmacists’ expertise. But what’s in it for you?When the Royal Pharmaceutical Society suggested last year that every care home should have a pharmacist aligned with them, the proposal was greeted with cynicism by some C+D readers. The issue was not whether it would be beneficial for the care homes, but who would pay for the pharmacists’ time?Meanwhile, advocates have insisted that care homes represent a “huge opportunity” for the sector, and that pharmacists who don’t get involved are missing a trick. So what’s the opportunity and how can you get on board?