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News Story: C&D interview Earl Howe "Gov won't splash out on PR". Is that a good tactic?

Analysis: As revealed in the latest C&D publication, featuring an interview with Earl Howe, the government is willing to work with pharmacists and the NHS to promote pharmacies' professional images.

So far so good, most will agree that the pharmacy sector needs such help right now. Indeed, we have seen much change recently where the NHS is increasingly recommending pharmacists for a number of services including Flu Vaccinations. The changes represent savings to NHS budgets by referring patients to pharmacists instead of doctors' surgeries and A&E. There are potentially further benefits to the public as pharmacists are more accessible and arguably have more time available.

These changes should also help to bring in new revenue streams to pharmacy which are much needed at this moment in time. They should also help to change the focus of pharmacy to that of a more clinical role, something which PharmaDoctor is heavily involved in. However, we are a long way off reaching a situation where pharmacists are at the front line of health care, providing a much needed stress relief for other NHS services.

For such change in the level pharmacy healthcare to be realised not only do more services need to be commissioned to the pharmacy sector, but their availability also needs to be communicated to the public. Pharmacists themselves need to be promoted as capable, knowledgeable medical professionals to help change the public habits and attitudes so that they think pharmacy first for minor health care needs. Only by promoting the services and the pharmacy sector will the government be able to take advantage of the savings potential the pharmacy sector could bring to the NHS.

It seems that, as always, the ideas are there but commercially the government perhaps lack the insight in how marketing and PR investment can potentially bring benefits to an industry. Simply put, what use is a brilliant new website or shop with no customers coming to it or indeed what future does a business have if its customers have any mistrust in it. If the current line taken by the government is not altered, any new NHS services provided by pharmacists may well be dead in the water.

The reality is that pharmacists offer such good value for money and a greater convenience to the public that even private pharmacy health care services such as PGDs are attracting customers. In fact we have found many pharmacists making such a good profit that they are turning over their entire focus towards clinical services. The private route may even be more advantageous to pharmacists as they can offer the services as they see fit, charging appropriately for their customer base. So, for the moment, as the Pharmacy Minister Earl Howe is urging individual pharmacy businesses and the "enthusiasts of pharmacy" to promote the sector, we will take him at his word by providing more private clinical services which pharmacists can offer to their customers and endeavour to help pharmacists so that they can promote their own services for their own and their patients' benefit.

Article published on the 20-08-2013

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