Mike Smith puts the world to rights…

I have just returned from the European Pharmacists Forum (EPF) in Milan, with a renewed level of optimism for the future of our profession. There, I met delegates from the USA, including the president of the American Pharmacists Association, Thomas E Menighan.

What impressed me so much is the “can do” attitude of our colleagues from the USA. The obstacles to the development of services have been overcome by well-reasoned debate in America, and this is confirmed by evidence of the public health gain from such services.

In fact, we are now also starting to see this in the UK and, despite objections from the medical profession, it is clear that flu vaccinations will reach record levels this year, because of the excellent and easily accessible service provided by pharmacists. Kirit Patel, chief executive officer at Day Lewis, advises me that his company alone will administer 30,000 flu vaccinations this year.

I have been involved with the EPF for more than 15 years, and in this time attitudes have changed quite dramatically. It impresses me that, although the cultural differences between countries are very real, we also operate to the same high levels of ethical professional practice – with the patient as the focus of everything that we do. It is a marked change that pharmacists in countries who thought years ago that they could not be involved in the areas covered by medical practitioners now see opportunities there.

At last it seems that our profession is being recognised as having so much to offer – regardless of vested interest – that will do much to improve the health of the communities we serve. There is now discussion of vaccination in countries where it was previously unheard of, even 12 months ago. Just think,10 years ago who would have dreamt of a pharmacist prescribing in the UK?

I was further encouraged by the words of Dr Bruce Warner, deputy chief pharmaceutical officer of NHS England, in the P3 article last month, “Opportunities for the taking”, where he stated that “interest in community pharmacy from commissioners and NHS decision-makers is unprecedented”. I looked back on an article I wrote 12 months ago when I commented that community pharmacy has an enormous role to play in the provision of care during the period of the inevitable winter pressures. This will be even more important this year.

The reason that there is such a high level of interest in our profession is that the NHS now needs us more than ever. However, there were a couple of points in Dr Warner’s article that I could not agree with: 􀀀

  • That a minor ailments scheme is not needed. I have to disagree with this. It works in Scotland and it should be introduced south of the border now. The only barrier can be cost. 􀀀
  • General practice pharmacists. I am ambivalent about this. Would it not be better to see second pharmacists in community pharmacies to free up more time for consultations and services?

I spent time last month at an open day of Alliance Healthcare’s Exeter service centre and continue to be so impressed (and very proud) of our people and our systems. Everyone is very focused on what they do and realises the importance of the vital medical supplies they dispatch on a daily basis under tremendous time pressure.

If you receive an invitation to visit one of our service centres, I encourage you to do so and I promise that you will be mightily impressed. I know that you and your team will be ready for the upcoming pressures of winter – but don’t forget to have your own flu jabs!

Mike Smith is chairman of Alliance Healthcare,mike.h.smith@alliance-healthcare.co.uk


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