Goodbody Health Inc. (AQSE:GDBY) Scientific Advisory Committee Member and Chair of the Pharmacy Focus Group Ian Strachan caught up with DirectorsTalk for an exclusive interview to discuss his background in the pharmaceutical sector, his role within the company, what the company stands for and what this means for an independent pharmacist and the sector as a whole.
Q1: Ian, you now have a chain of pharmacies and have contributed heavily to the pharmaceutical sector over the years. Can you just tell us more about your journey and perhaps tell us a little bit about being Chairman of the NPA?
A1: I never started off as a pharmacist, I was a forensic scientist for many years, they sponsored me to do pharmacy. I was also a schoolteacher for a while, taught on the GCSE syllabus and I’ve written a few books and been an advisor to the pharmacy industry. So I’ve been around quite a long time, but in my mid-fifties, I guess I went into ownership and I set up a small group of pharmacies, which situated across the Northwest.
What you were alluding to earlier on was that I was also Chairman of the National Pharmacy Association. Around about 2015, the government came forward with a consultation called ‘Cuts and efficiencies on Community Pharmacy’ and really what that meant was they wanted to take funding out of pharmacy and they wanted to transform the sector by taking out its talent, taking out its IP and placing it really into doctor surgeries and redefining the titles of pharmacies as clinical pharmacies
Our campaign to challenge some of those claims and challenge some of that direction of travel was very effective looking back on it and I was very much the figurehead around that at the time.
Q2: Now, part of your journey is a recent appointment to be Scientific Advisory Committee Member and Chair of the Pharmacy Focus Group at Goodbody Health. From your point of view, can you just tell us who Goodbody Health are and what they stand for?
A2: Well, as I see it, the company is about offering frontline healthcare services like venous blood extraction. We have phlebotomist services in communities because all the evidence points to the fact that when you bring providers together into the domains where people live, into their homes, into their dwellings, into their communities, then you improve the outcome.
This was really a big part of the rationale behind what are called independent commissioning services, whereby we’re bringing providers really to improve outcomes to the very people who use them and when you think of pharmacy, there isn’t a better example of healthcare providers being situated within them communities.
Goodbody, in many respects, in my view, is ahead of its time because it recognises that the NHS is at crossroads and that if we’re going to deal with the endless demands, not just upon services but upon funding and challenges for funding, then really people will have to take more responsibility, if you like, for their own healthcare provision. So, that will mean taking more responsibility for welfare, for the lifestyle, for the health choices and that’s a fact and really, it’s ahead of political thinking right now, although I do sense it’s changing.
Within this network of Goodbody pharmacies, the group and the data that it will gather and the success of this programme, which I’ve got no doubts about at all, will be invaluable in making the business case for pharmacy and phlebotomy services from communities.
Once and for all, we’ll be able to really put to bed the notion that pharmacy can’t deliver, is not clinical, so I very much see the company’s journey about continuing some of the work that we were involved in way back in 2015.
Q3: Can you just explain for us then your role within the company?
A3: I met Mark Howells a little while ago, I think it was a very good AIM dinner in London, a ball we put on there, and I was very impressed with him. I was very impressed with his belief and passion for independent pharmacy, he really does see independent pharmacy as a solution to many of these challenges facing the NHS. So, this is a guy right up my street, and he was prepared to not just talk about it but put money there.
My role in this is really as Chairman of the Pharmacy Focus Group, I am part of the Scientific board as well as Chairman of this group. Really, the board is about gathering together a group of like-minded pharmacy owners who are passionate about developing clinical services and they will become the trailblazers, they will become the mentors, the leaders that will basically gather the evidence that will take this forward.
There’ll be about a thousand of these pharmacies recruited during the year through advertising, promotion, we’ll be seeing a lot more of Mark Howells, we’ll be seeing a lot more of these trailblazers who will be launching this and taking these people on this journey. It will be a journey of discovery, of private revenue streams, it’ll be a journey of independence from the NHS as well. That journey of discovery will bring together the vision for a wider engagement of independent community pharmacies in the NHS, and hopefully once and for all, will establish community pharmacies as a solution to so many of these challenges that are facing the NHS.
So, it’s early stages, we’ve already made a good start. We’ve got about eight pharmacies recruited to this board and we’re already developing the plans, the strategies and the training, because all these pharmacies will be trained up, in fingerprint testing, in finger prick extraction of blood and the analysis of those results, which will be integrated, of course, with GP surgeries when appropriate but, it’s a journey that I’m very excited about.
Q4: So, what does this mean to an independent pharmacist and I suppose to the sector as well?
A4: I think independent pharmacy has been on a crusade, a journey, pretty much since that consultation in 2016.
I see the Goodbody initiative here to bring these clinical frontline services to community pharmacies up and down the country, as a way of being able to influence that government thinking in a positive way. Being able to give them a credible evidence space to substantiate, not just the negotiations, but to be able to provide the living proof.
We’ve been on that journey, as I say, what that journey has lacked in the past has been credible armoury of clinical services that were adequately evidenced. This was something that I was driving for from 2016 so I do see this very much about cementing the future of independent pharmacy and helping once and for all to be able to establish our credentials to be that gateway, that doorway to community pharmacy and the health service.
Q5: As you bring on the thousand pharmacists throughout the year, do you think other pharmacists will want to get involved or can they get involved?
A5: Yes, I do think that community pharmacy will want to get involved, I think the whole idea about developing this pharmacy forum, the board, is to be able to be that trailblazer, to provide not just the evidence but to iron out and smooth out a plan that means this can be introduced and integrated with local doctors in a seamless way that makes that journey much easier.
One of the challenges to any service is preparation and investment in getting there. Goodbody Health are put the resource into this to be able to make that journey more seamless, it’s going to make it easier and it’s going to mean that community pharmacy is going to get a real step up in making this become a living, breathing service from community pharmacies.
I’m determined to make sure that when we do roll these plans out then community pharmacies will get all the support and help, and that will be going on a continual basis, in real time.
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