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Skills in healthcare: pharmacy challenges in the UK

The challenges today’s pharmacists face
Pharmacy in the UK

Pharmacists in the UK are expected to take on a broader role than ever before under the ongoing shifts within the NHS and there's a clear consensus among the clinical community that much more can be done in patients' own communities to keep them healthy.

Although NHS England is still working on the best way to organise services it's a direction of travel that has been gathering pace in recent years thanks to things like the ongoing drive for greater self care.

“Pharmacy has a growing, and really important, role to play in helping patients and healthcare consumers,” notes Skills in Healthcare's general manager Dave Bull. He adds: “In today's cost-conscious NHS it is inevitable that more healthcare needs will be met by pharmacists and their teams.”

But as the services on offer within pharmacies diversify, there are a number of challenges that pharmacists must overcome. At one of the most basic levels these were highlighted by the May 2013 Which? report. The consumer watchdog's 'mystery shopper' analysis found worrying differences in levels of advice on offer from high street pharmacies.

Independent pharmacies fared worse than supermarkets and the big pharmacy chains, but across the board 43 per cent of the visits saw 'unsatisfactory advice' handed out.

The existence of low levels of product and brand knowledge is a conclusion Bull regrettably agrees with. Skills in Healthcare, which is the contract sales and training services arm of Alliance Boots, conducts pre-training knowledge assessments with over 5,000 pharmacy contacts per month.

“In general, due to time pressures and heavy workloads, pharmacists and their teams have insufficient product knowledge levels to help them to confidently engage with or recommend the right product and at the right time to their patients,” explains Bull.

“This is in no way due to competency levels - pharmacy simply has too many pressures and pharmacists are inundated with trade and product information with limited time to take it all in.
The overall implications are that pharmacy will be challenged to reach its full potential if it cannot get the time, and sufficient training, for effective product education. The end result will be that customer or patient service will be hindered,” he adds.

Adding value to pharma and pharmacy
Education is a key area where a pharmacy contract sales organisation (CSO), such as Skills in Healthcare, can provide real value to both its pharmaceutical industry clients as well as its pharmacist audience.

“CSOs can work closely with pharma companies to tailor effective face-to-face training, that starts where e-learning ends and is designed to enhance the patient and healthcare consumer experience. The training encourages correct product use and adherence where prescription medicines are concerned,” Bull says. “It also supports efficient dispensing behaviours to drive medicines optimisation and brand loyalty. Utilising a single CSO for training can drive a consistent approach rather than engaging representatives from multiple companies who are competing for time and share of shelf.”

Chessington, Surrey-based Skills in Healthcare has been providing sales and product detailing services across all pharmacy channels for four years. Run independently from its parent company, the Alliance Boots Group, Skills in Healthcare works with all pharmacy players, from independents to national multiple chains and grocers, and provides exclusive field training support to Boots. The company provides both dedicated and shared (syndicated) sales resource to clients through a range of 'sell-in' and 'sell-out' support services. Uniquely, Skills in Healthcare can also offer a range of integrated service solutions by drawing upon the end-to-end supply chain capabilities of Alliance Boots to support pharma brands through their product life cycles.

“Pharma brand and marketing managers work with CSOs like Skills in Healthcare when there is a need to support brand performance and drive pharmacy product and product process awareness,” says Dave Bull. “Companies can also turn to CSOs when they need to outsource experienced staff and buy in sales management expertise and best practice - aspects that their in-house teams often cannot fully provide.”

He concludes: “Pharma is increasingly looking for more flexible services and resource options and by working with us benefit from a partnership approach which is focused on clearly-scoped projects, executed with a collaborative and flexible ethos to deliver mutual ROI.
These projects can be delivered through tailored solutions including sales, detailing and product training supported by a combination of contact strategies via field and telesales activity.”

Pharmacists in the UK are expected to take on a broader role than ever before under the ongoing shifts within the NHS and there's a clear consensus among the clinical community that much more can be done in patients' own communities to keep them healthy.

Although NHS England is still working on the best way to organise services it's a direction of travel that has been gathering pace in recent years thanks to things like the ongoing drive for greater self care.

“Pharmacy has a growing, and really important, role to play in helping patients and healthcare consumers,” notes Skills in Healthcare's general manager Dave Bull. He adds: “In today's cost-conscious NHS it is inevitable that more healthcare needs will be met by pharmacists and their teams.”

But as the services on offer within pharmacies diversify, there are a number of challenges that pharmacists must overcome. At one of the most basic levels these were highlighted by the May 2013 Which? report. The consumer watchdog's 'mystery shopper' analysis found worrying differences in levels of advice on offer from high street pharmacies.

Independent pharmacies fared worse than supermarkets and the big pharmacy chains, but across the board 43 per cent of the visits saw 'unsatisfactory advice' handed out.

The existence of low levels of product and brand knowledge is a conclusion Bull regrettably agrees with. Skills in Healthcare, which is the contract sales and training services arm of Alliance Boots, conducts pre-training knowledge assessments with over 5,000 pharmacy contacts per month.

“In general, due to time pressures and heavy workloads, pharmacists and their teams have insufficient product knowledge levels to help them to confidently engage with or recommend the right product and at the right time to their patients,” explains Bull.

“This is in no way due to competency levels - pharmacy simply has too many pressures and pharmacists are inundated with trade and product information with limited time to take it all in.
The overall implications are that pharmacy will be challenged to reach its full potential if it cannot get the time, and sufficient training, for effective product education. The end result will be that customer or patient service will be hindered,” he adds.

Adding value to pharma and pharmacy
Education is a key area where a pharmacy contract sales organisation (CSO), such as Skills in Healthcare, can provide real value to both its pharmaceutical industry clients as well as its pharmacist audience.

“CSOs can work closely with pharma companies to tailor effective face-to-face training, that starts where e-learning ends and is designed to enhance the patient and healthcare consumer experience. The training encourages correct product use and adherence where prescription medicines are concerned,” Bull says. “It also supports efficient dispensing behaviours to drive medicines optimisation and brand loyalty. Utilising a single CSO for training can drive a consistent approach rather than engaging representatives from multiple companies who are competing for time and share of shelf.”

Chessington, Surrey-based Skills in Healthcare has been providing sales and product detailing services across all pharmacy channels for four years. Run independently from its parent company, the Alliance Boots Group, Skills in Healthcare works with all pharmacy players, from independents to national multiple chains and grocers, and provides exclusive field training support to Boots. The company provides both dedicated and shared (syndicated) sales resource to clients through a range of 'sell-in' and 'sell-out' support services. Uniquely, Skills in Healthcare can also offer a range of integrated service solutions by drawing upon the end-to-end supply chain capabilities of Alliance Boots to support pharma brands through their product life cycles.

Pharmacy will be challenged to reach its full potential if it cannot get the time, and sufficient training, for effective product education

“Pharma brand and marketing managers work with CSOs like Skills in Healthcare when there is a need to support brand performance and drive pharmacy product and product process awareness,” says Dave Bull. “Companies can also turn to CSOs when they need to outsource experienced staff and buy in sales management expertise and best practice - aspects that their in-house teams often cannot fully provide.”

He concludes: “Pharma is increasingly looking for more flexible services and resource options and by working with us benefit from a partnership approach which is focused on clearly-scoped projects, executed with a collaborative and flexible ethos to deliver mutual ROI.
These projects can be delivered through tailored solutions including sales, detailing and product training supported by a combination of contact strategies via field and telesales activity.”

Article by
Dave Bull

for more information on Skills in Healthcare email Dave david.bull@skills-in-healthcare.co.uk

23rd December 2013

From: Sales, Marketing, Healthcare

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