WEST MIDLANDS Co-op has made a substantial investment in staff training in preparation for nationwide changes in pharmacy services.
The Government's new Pharmacy Contract, which will reward pharmacists for the range and quality of services they provide rather than the volume of medicines they dispense, will be introduced in April.
One new service under the new contract will be Medicines Use Reviews. This will allow accredited pharmacists to carry out an individual review of a patient's medication to make sure they get the most benefit.
West Midlands Co-op started its preparations early with a commitment to providing training courses and encouraging staff to develop skills and gain accredited qualifications.
The result is a better trained, more confident workforce, who will be able to take on more roles to release the pharmacist to spend more time with patients, for example on medicines use review.
Diane Walker, the Co-op's Pharmacy Division Training Manager, said: "We are now into our third year of having a professional training structure in place. We are seeing increasing numbers of qualified staff at different stages.
"It has aided recruitment and developed our staff, who feel more capable of taking on a wider role."
West Midlands Co-op has five Accuracy Checking Technicians in only 32 pharmacies – almost certainly the highest ratio of any multiple – and two more will be trained this year.
A total of 21 dispensers are qualified at NVQ Level 3, or above, 13 more are working through the course to get to Level 3 and 10 more recently started the course.
Some 31 staff are at NVQ Level 2 and above and 22 staff have joined the course to work towards this qualification.
Added Ms Walker: "This is a big commitment to training to gear us up for the new Pharmacy Contract. We want to be proactive in preparing for the changes which is why we have put the ground work in place."
? United Co-operatives Healthcare, which runs 130 community pharmacies in the Midlands, North West and North Wales, is targeting Yorkshire for a major expansion programme.
General Manager John Nuttall commented: "Nearly a year ago United implemented a massive acquisitions policy across its major businesses which has been highly successful.
"Now the time has come to ensure that United Healthcare expands in Yorkshire. I will be delighted to talk in confidence to any owner of pharmacies who is seriously considering selling up."