In defence of Dr Philip Lee MP

Well this blog is not actually in defence of Dr Lee. I am a pharmacist so how can I possibly defend him. However, it is not usually my way to call people names for expressing views that I do not agree with, or to simply challenge what is both ill-informed and frankly wrong. But it is important to reflect on the beliefs and experiences that sit behind these views.

Dr Lee is a medical doctor, qualified through Imperial with experience in hospitals and most recently in general practice. An impressive list of schools including Keeble Oxford so obviously an intelligent fellow. His long term goals (if the Conservative Party blurb is to be believed) include securing the best acute and chronic healthcare for all in his constituency.

Dr Lee seems to share views with quite a few GPs that I have encountered:

  • That General Practice can and should do everything
  • That other members of the healthcare system add little value

But why might he have these views? 

Well firstly General Practice is a small business and for most GPs their salary is dependent of the income of their business and the profit that it makes. This usually gives both a protectionist attitude and a jealousy where others are gaining any form of income that could be conceivably given to them.

And secondly, many of the interactions between rank and file GPs are often negative. We must recognise that in the main the pharmacist is set up to monitor the GPs and the interaction can be negative, particularly when questioning prescriptions. And services such as NMR and MUR which focus on issues of reconciliation, information and medication review could be viewed as treading on toes.

Actually, I think that most members of the public have a different view and consider the community pharmacy a valuable service within their community. And a wealth of organisations talk about the value of community pharmacy.

So what conclusions do we draw from this episode:

  • GPs and community pharmacists may not ever be good bedfellows. A simple fact that they are competing organisations and this will always be difficult.
  • GPs may be feeling the pressure – certainly their income may not have increased much over the last few years, but the pressure will only get worse. This is not dissimilar from community pharmacy who are also entering difficult times.
  • Community Pharmacy need to accelerate the pace of change – there is too much spread between the leaders and laggards

Community pharmacy leaders and our professional bodies must lead community pharmacy to being ‘stand alone’ service providers, reducing the emphasis on checking – changing the interactions from negative to positive. CCG commissioners must take a wider view and commission joined up services across communities. We must continue to demonstrate our worth through delivering better outcomes for patients


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