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50 not out

The editor reaches 50 issues of the magazine. Here's his highlights if you're thinking 'where next?' for community pharmacy in England

By Rob Darracott

“It’s time to be brave and bold” wrote Chris Martin in my very first issue of P3Pharmacy in October 2018. Drawing on experiences around pharmacy in Wales, he said: “Change will happen, so we can either be done to, or co-produce our own future.” His prescription of a clear vision underpinning a plan for a future workforce of independent prescribers resonates. Full circle, in last month’s issue chief pharmacist Andrew Evans describes what’s happened in Wales since then. 

Exploring how pharmacy might fit into more integrated models of care is a long-running theme. In March 2019, “Taking a forward view" invited 20 community pharmacists to tell us where they saw their future. The output from the structured conversations in this vox pop is a reminder that any visioning exercise should not start with a completely blank sheet of paper.

Understanding the real forces and drivers of change was explored two months later in my interview with chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge. We started with the 2008 White Paper Pharmacy in England – Building on Strengths, which contains the closest thing to an ‘official’ strategy for pharmacy I’ve seen since 1990. Anyone who says ‘we don’t know what they want’ has never read it. “Looking forward, talking up” also sees Dr Ridge predict that “GP referral to community pharmacy… is going to become a very high profile NHS service”. 

The pandemic changed everything in 2020. Our front covers in May and June reflected, in “Everyday heroes”, the flexibility, dynamism, resilience and innovation of community pharmacy, while in “Left behind”, I tried to suggest why the sector was still fighting for recognition, a question those tasked with developing today’s vision (and strategy) might also like to try to answer. 

There are, of course, multiple lessons in the work of extra-ordinary community pharmacists. I’d pick out Atul Patel (November 2020), Saghir Ahmed (March 2021), the seven amazing owners on the cover of our June 2021 issue, Mike Patel a year later and Reena Barai four months ago. All community pharmacists who don’t wait for permission and who know for certain that their future value lies in the utility of their pharmacies to their communities. 

Finally, there is that seismic change coming to healthcare in England with integrated care systems (ICSs). As these new organisations take shape, there’s the July 2021 primer “Integrated care systems… so what?” and pieces like Adam Irvine’s “A crucial 12 months” in October; we’ve written extensively this year about the Fuller Stocktake as it scoped the challenge for primary care. If you're looking for inspiration from the UK, but outside England, December 2019’s “Three systems, one purpose” should be right up your street.

It’s easy for me to track this narrative over the past four years: copies of my first 49 issues just about fit into a document file on the shelf in front of me. But if you ‘read, then bin’, don’t worry. All the articles mentioned (and many others in the same vein) can be found on this website. Just follow the highlighted links and enjoy. 

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