CEO's Message: Looking towards next steps for pharmacists

Updated on November 16, 2023 (Originally posted on November 6, 2023) The Tablet

In addition to fall being “pumpkin spice latte season”, it’s the beginning of the cocooning season brought on by short days and temperatures that keep us all inside. I often associate fall with the time to reflect, reset and look forward to what comes next.

I write this just a few days after Health Minister Adrian Dix made the announcement to increase scope of practice for pharmacists last year. That was a long-awaited and monumental day for community pharmacy. The lifting of so many clinical restrictions related to adaptations and the decision to move ahead with minor ailment and contraception prescribing marked a next chapter for community pharmacy in B.C. It signalled government’s confidence in pharmacists that I believe was built as a result of the work done during the pandemic. The pandemic brought with it many losses for too many people, but it allowed pharmacists to demonstrate their commitment to their patients and show the important gaps in care they fill.

The time since last year’s announcement has been unbelievably busy for every pharmacist, for our partners at the Ministry of Health, the College of Pharmacists and UBC. 

The numbers speak for themselves. The number of emergency fills has fallen dramatically year-over-year and the number of renewals and adaptations has increased by more than double. We all know this helps patients get their medications when they need them and takes the pressure off family physicians and emergency rooms.

The patient response to minor ailment and contraception prescribing has also been significant. As of mid-October, pharmacists have performed more than 135,000 assessments for more than 116,000 patients. Across B.C., 68 per cent of active community pharmacists are doing this work.

So what comes next? Recently the BCPhA polled members to ask about the expanded scope and what they want to see next. We were encouraged by the broad participation of members and the useful information that was provided. Thank you to all who took the time to complete the survey.

What stands out is the commitment pharmacists have to ensuring they make the best decisions they can for their patients, based on the best information possible. In the case of adaptations, that means having the ability for the pharmacist to order lab tests when warranted.

And there is also a desire to offer in-pharmacy point-of-care testing to ensure patients get more timely care. There is good evidence that offering point-of-care testing to patients with suspected strep throat is good for patients who can receive their medication sooner than waiting days to see a physician. So, this type of testing is a logical next step.

We have had conversations with government about both the ability to order lab tests and point-of-care testing. We will continue to press for these much-needed initiatives. While we would all like new authorities to be granted quickly, changing public policy takes time. Be assured we raise the needs of pharmacists for everything from an increase in the dispensing fee to new opportunities like point-of-care testing in every meeting with elected and ministry staff. 

Geraldine Vance
Chief Executive Officer
BC Pharmacy Association

This article is featured in The Tablet. The Tablet features pharmacy and industry news, profiles on B.C. pharmacists, information on research developments and new products.