I remember Jim Smith talking about integrity. I have great respect for Jim and listened to him speak a few times. He is a man of integrity – someone to look up to. But over the last few months I have wondered whether his teachings to pharmacists have fell on deaf ears. Have we lost it?

Integrity is difficult to define – it is to do with consistency – it is about honesty and truthfulness. A pharmacist has ‘integrity’ when they act according to their beliefs and principles.  I believe that I am there to help and support people achieve the best outcomes possible. I will do this honestly and consistently always thinking of the patient first.

Why am I full of doubt? Well several recent experiences really. Some have frankly shocked me and leave me doubting my colleagues. Here are some examples:

  • At a meeting talking about the safety of methadone and deaths in children (as far as I can estimate there have been 23 in the last two years). I am told that this is ‘acceptable collateral damage’. And the introduction of safer forms would be expensive and inconvenient.
  • I have looked at drugs and therapeutics committee forms and seen prejudice, mistruths, exaggerations, scaremongering and a clear disregard for patients. I don’t know whether it is just sloppy or whether there are deeper needs to hold back progress or prevent money being spent.
  • I have heard pharmacists recommending changing the medicines of vulnerable people to save a few pennies in the name of QIPP.
  • I have seen some of the most inappropriate behaviour with specials, which can only be described as unsavoury. And a couple of examples of selling POMs that are rightly criminal.

It is not up to me to judge who should live and who should die – every life is precious. It is not up to me to decide who should suffer and not receive medicines that might help – it is not my money – it belongs to tax-payers. It is up to me to defend and uphold the good name of the profession. To know the difference between wrong and right. To be honest and truthful.

In opposition to this I am often thrilled by the exploits of pharmacists at the top of their profession, respected and valued by the people they interact with. Why are there some poor examples? Am I just having a bad month?

If all it needs is a short reminder – then here it is ‘integrity’.


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