A common cause

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A common cause

By Rob Darracott

Over the last three years, we’ve used the main interviews in the magazine edition of P3pharmacy to bring a wide range of outside perspectives into pharmacy. Tech entrepreneurs, medicine manufacturers, academics, the leaders of other trade sector bodies or health-related charities, they’ve all had something to say about community pharmacy, as well as a stake in its continued development.

Pharmacy is great at talking to itself. That tendency to play to the gallery is great when you’re winning; not so good when a reality check is required. Community pharmacy is not good at recognising who else might be interested in its success. The critical friends, the allies in a changing world who understand the value of what pharmacists do, but who see the potential to do more. 

Back in the Summer I went to Bristol City Hall to meet Councillor Asher Craig, the city’s deputy mayor for communities, equalities and public health. Her title suggests she should have a keen interest in community pharmacy, the network that delivers public health services. Indeed she does, and thanks to my old friend Ade Williams, she knows more about community pharmacy than most elected local authority leaders. On his invitation, she visited his Bedminster Pharmacy shortly after her appointment. 

As she explains, the City Council intends to be a key partner in Healthier Together, the integrated care system covering Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. Anyone who questions whether local government should have a role gets short shrift. 

Led by Marvin Rees, the first elected black mayor of any major European city, the administration is focused on reducing inequalities, driven by the lived experience of its current leaders. That will mean holding the new NHS structures, including the integrated care organisations and primary care networks, to account in delivering on their own priority to reduce inequalities in health. Councillor Craig clearly sees community pharmacies as crucial to that effort. 

Bristol’s joint strategic needs analysis has a chapter on women, the only one in the country to do so. And I got a fascinating glimpse into the role the City Council has played and continues to play in the local response to Covid. Bristol’s own review of why the black, Asian and minority ethnic community appeared to be disproportionately impacted by Covid was published two weeks before the Government’s national review. 

Local authorities are acutely conscious of ‘place’. The connection local councillors have with the people they represent means that issues like the health gradient across Bristol – up to 11 years across the city – can make it to the heart of policymaking. The connection community pharmacists have with their local communities should make them natural allies in any fight to improve things for the people they live with, work with and provide services to. 

Councillor Craig said community pharmacies are integral to locality working going forward. I agree with her. They should be. But I wish I could be convinced that the value she sees community pharmacies bringing to local thinking and planning, born out of their connection to their communities and what they need, was also driving the outcomes of the current representation review in England. 

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