It's time to take the high road

Mike Smith puts the world to rights...

Pharmacy in Scotland achieves things that we will still be talking about south of the border in another 12 months’ time. In no small part, this is due to Community Pharmacy Scotland and its forward-thinking chief pharmaceutical officer, Rose Marie Parr.

In her strategy for Scotland, Achieving excellence in pharmaceutical care, she elaborates on her priorities of developing the workforce, making use of technology and formulating a sustainable, Scotland-wide approach to pharmaceutical care.

It’s worth repeating the commitments outlined in the document:

  • A contract with new funding provision and a ‘pharmacy performers list’
  • Funding arrangements to support direct care and clinical care outcomes
  • Develop the Chronic Medication Service
  • Develop the Minor Ailments Service
  • Increased public health role
  • Promote pharmacy as first port of call for minor ailments
  • Integrate pharmacists into the multidisciplinary primary care team – recognising their advanced clinical skills
  • Provide tools to promote safer use of medicines
  • Improve pharmaceutical care in care homes and for domiciliary patients
  • Improve access in remote areas
  • Develop pharmacist’s clinical capability and prescribing skills
  • Optimise the use of digital technology.

This must be great news for community pharmacists in Scotland and their patients.

I struggle with the lack of progress in England compared with our fellow pharmacists north of the border. It seems clear that Keith Ridge, England’s chief pharmaceutical officer, has very different views for the future role of community pharmacy. From what I understand, he sees more value in pharmacists in GP surgeries, along with gradual deskilling of pharmacists by permitting technicians to supervise and oversee the supply of prescription medicines – the rationale being that this will free up more time for pharmacists to spend with patients.

For a cynical guy like me, an ulterior motive is clear – to save money by helping to support the shortage of GPs and reduce the cost of dispensing prescriptions. Whatever the future outcome, I don’t see it as a good one for pharmacists. I know pharmacists who work in GP surgeries – and many find it much less fulfilling.
As far as the supervision debate is concerned, I cannot believe that we can countenance the deskilling of a professional who has spent five years to qualify and then enters a market with limited job prospects and falling salaries. Many times in this column I have said that my work with pharmacy students leads me to believe we must leave a profession fit for these highly qualified and motivated individuals. Think again Mr Ridge – give us some good news, and a strategy, for the future of community pharmacy in England.

We remain in a state of limbo as far as remuneration is concerned. The whole process is hindered by the appeal on the judicial reviews, which may not be heard until April, or even later. My views on these are well known! What I find so frustrating about this is the lack of awareness of the tremendous service that pharmacists are providing that I see and hear of on a daily basis.

Last week, I was with a pharmacist who delivers between 60 and 100 (with a record 224) medicines to housebound patients each day – just think of the impact on these patients if the service is discontinued because of lack of funds. We provide this level of service because we are dedicated professionals who care for our patients. The Department of Health needs to understand the true value of our work.

One thing is abundantly clear to me – that we will not achieve anything by being passive. We have to unite, and we have to go for it. Start shouting.

Mike Smith is chairman of Alliance Healthcare

We Recommend

Time is something else that’s in short supply

The only way to free up time is to work smarter, rather than harder, says Noel Wicks What’s the most precious commodit...

What does economic recovery mean for pharmacy?

There are signs of a financial upturn but pharmacy continues to face challenges from the recession and GPhC grading, say...

Popular Features

Just a headache?

Pharmacy staff can play a vital role in helping migraine sufferers identify their triggers and ensure they’re getting...

STPs ‘the best hope for the NHS’ says King’s Fund

Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) still have potential to improve health and care despite a bumpy start, sa...

Cost of diabetes drugs soars to almost £1 billion

The national spend on prescription items is rising each year in line with increased rates of diagnosis