As we all know, self care is becoming an increasingly important part of primary care, and pharmacies are key in helping to encourage people to adopt this behaviour. There are many ways to communicate appropriate health information to the public, but the added value and personal touch cannot be replicated in a leaflet.

That’s why it’s crucial for pharmacy to maximise the opportunity of Self Care Week this November. Not only will it help to increase footfall and highlight the services and products pharmacies offer, but it will also help to support people and give them the tools to look after their own health for life. The pharmacy team has an opportunity to become the “face” of the campaign, offering that vital in-person advice, particularly about self-treatable conditions and over-the-counter medicines.

Organised by the Self Care Forum, Self Care Week has been running since 2011 and is an annual national awareness week that focuses on embedding support for self care across communities, families and generations. The theme for this year’s campaign is Health Literacy.

There are numerous ways your community pharmacy can get involved and help drive awareness of Self Care Week.

I would encourage you to look at the Self Care Forum website ( where there are free resources and materials available to download, such as posters and leaflets, which can be printed and displayed in and around the pharmacy to promote self care.

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Mike Smith puts the world to rights…

Recent weeks have seen significant upheaval within the political climate in the UK. While I do always strive to be apolitical in this column, I cannot help but draw comparisons between the national political situation and the world of community pharmacy.

Many of our leaders who supported the referendum’s Leave campaign have now resigned, leaving it to others to take the situation forward.

Since the proposed pharmacy funding cuts announcement made last December:

  • Keith Ridge has clearly had second thoughts about the proposed hub and spoke model he used as part of the “justification” for the original £170 million cut
  • Pharmacy minister Alistair Burt back-tracked on his prediction that up to 3,000 pharmacies could close as a result of the planned funding cuts, saying “it is not the aim of the government to close pharmacies”
  • And to top it off, Mr Burt has resigned, although, of course, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has stayed in post.

Where does this all leave us?

Now more than ever, we need to think more clearly and strategically about the future of community pharmacy, and it concerns me that the ongoing divisions within our professional and negotiating bodies do not fill me with confidence.

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Despite recent political changes, community pharmacy could still offer government a neat solution to issues in healthcare, argues community pharmacist Noel Wicks

I don’t think I’m alone in being a little shocked at the result of the Brexit vote. Like many, I hadn’t really contemplated the reality of a Leave vote simply because it hadn’t registered as a realistic outcome. This may have been because the general feeling here in Scotland was one of wanting to remain in Europe, as was reflected in the voting statistics.

Quite a few people have asked me why Scotland voted the way it did. I don’t think there’s any clear reason why it was so different from elsewhere in the UK. Could it be perhaps that we feel a bit removed from some of the issues that seemed to drive so much of the pre-referendum debate? I’m thinking of things such as immigration and the NHS.

While I wouldn’t suggest these aren’t relevant in Scotland, I don’t think they are felt quite so keenly as they are south of the border. Perhaps it was because ‘our Nicola’ was in the vanguard of the Remain campaign and, to many, acquitted herself admirably during the televised debates. Whatever the reason, it seems Scotland may well reconsider its role within the UK, although I do think it needs to be realistic about what the reality of a solo position in Europe might look like.

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Mike Smith puts the world to rights…

I fear for a profession whose main characteristic seems to be apathy. The NPA petition was a great success with 1.8 million signatures and clearly shows enormous public support for independent community pharmacy. Yet, it has all gone very quiet again, and it is vital that we keep the momentum going. However, it is also gratifying to see that so many people signed the petition on the government’s website – this all shows we have a strong collective voice.

I welcome the news that the Department of Health (DH) will take longer to consider whether to expand hub and spoke dispensing. I said in this column many months ago that I regarded hub and spoke as a red herring following the £170 million cut, detailed in the now infamous 17 December 2015 letter from Keith Ridge and Will Cavendish.

In my opinion, the financial model for hub and spoke is just not sustainable for the average independent pharmacy. However, a danger I do see is further development of organisations that hoover up electronic repeat prescriptions from the market, but do not necessarily provide the best care to patients. The consequence of this could be very significant for your pharmacy, and I urge you to be ultra-vigilant about this activity – you do not know what you have got until it’s gone.

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News of change is coming from all directions within healthcare at the moment, but it may not always be for the better, says community pharmacist Noel Wicks

Occasionally in this line of work you hear things and your first reaction is “that can’t possibly be true”. And I’m not talking about Brexit. Perhaps you are not quite sure if something you just heard is an exaggeration or if it’s an urban myth. Whichever it is, you think that someone, somewhere, has muddled their facts.

I had this experience only a few weeks ago, when someone told me that a CCG in England – in an attempt to cut costs – had informed GP practices not to prescribe things that could be bought over the counter. I laughed at first, but it quickly became apparent that the person imparting these “facts” was being deadly serious. I explained how ridiculous that would be, citing a long list of reasons why no one in their right mind would issue that sort of guidance. First and foremost it would represent a major policy change from the NHS’s mantra of free at the point of access. I wouldn’t imagine this going down well with the local population or their representatives in Westminster.

Second, it would put your average GP in an enormously difficult position in refusing to treat a patient. I’m not sure how their regulatory body would view this, but I would imagine that refusing to treat someone might be considered worse than treating them wrongly.

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