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It’s time to demonstrate pharmacy’s strength

Pharmacists must flex their collective strength to face the challenges ahead, says Noel Wicks

I had the very good fortune recently to attend a clinical leadership in pharmacy launch event for a new 12-day course of exciting and practical leadership training that’s being offered to 25 worthy candidates from Scotland. People have been selected from various sectors of pharmacy, all of whom will no doubt benefit greatly from their newfound leadership skills.

The Scottish chief pharmacist and other notable speakers were there to launch the programme, but I was most intrigued by someone introduced as “the sumo guy”. Who? Some sort of mud wrestler?

It turns out he was Paul McGee, speaker and best-selling author of the book SUMO (Shut Up, Move On): The Straight-talking Guide to Succeeding in Life.

And if his inspiring presentation on how to deal with challenges in life and work was anything to go by, then the book promises to be a great read. Luckily, Santa read my Christmas list and left a copy of it in my stocking, so I willl find out.

You may be wondering why I am mentioning SUMO? The main reason is that the comments, philosophy and observations I gained from this short talk came flooding back to me when I read the Department of Health’s recent letter relating to pharmacy in England.

I’m sure by now everyone will have heard something of what was contained in the little pre-Christmas present from the Department of Health, setting out its plans for the global sum and pharmacy services in the next few years. It’s not great news that community pharmacy, like most other NHS services, is under pressure to reduce costs further and increase efficiencies.

While our representative bodies go into overdrive to argue our case with the DH, I suggest that we, as a profession and as an industry, apply a little of Mr McGee’s SUMO technique to the situation.

In the first instance, he suggests we need to allow ourselves time to have a little wallow. We can have a moan and a groan, perhaps a little denial and certainly some anger. The wallowing needs to have a life span, though, and once that’s over, it’s time to “shut up and move on”.

Rather than donning the “victim” T-shirt that Mr McGee memorably displayed as part of his presentation, I suggest we could instead embrace some of his “seven steps of how to address challenges”. In this case, step four (how can I influence or improve the situation?) and step seven (what can I find that’s positive in the situation?) certainly apply. No doubt some of the other seven steps would be useful, too.

It looks like 2016 will be a year of difficult conversations for our industry and there will undoubtedly be greater changes than ever before. God forbid we sit like hippos, wallowing in the mud. We must make sure that we use our collective strength to meet the challenges head on and see this as an opportunity for pharmacy to unite around a common belief – pharmacy must be valued as a fundamental pillar on which the NHS stands and without which it will crumble.

Noel Wicks is an independent pharmacist.

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Thanks, Matt