Who speaks up for community pharmacists? It is a good question and one that I currently can’t find an answer to. A couple of years ago I mentioned that I had the pleasure to be invited to be a judge on the C and D awards. I was struck by the quality of some of the submissions and enjoyed the process – such commitment and such pride.
However this is not my enduring memory of the event. In bib and tucker I was fortunate to sit beside a member of the British Pharmaceutical Students Association. I have to say how impressed I was. This was a bright and intelligent young woman – so full of enthusiasm and life. She was going to be a leading light and a credit to the profession. But was that true? Chained to a dispensing bench for 9 hours a day without much of a break and limited opportunities to demonstrate her true value – what would be her chance in life if she chose to become a community pharmacist?
Is this an appropriate thought for a key sector in our profession where there is no formal salary scale based on competence and no formal recognition for advanced practitioner or specialist status? Is it an appropriate thought when we have falling locum rates and increasing use of low paid workforce? Do technicians and counter assistants do better as important elements of that pharmacy team? No I don’t think so. It can be a very demoralising role to play that undermines its potential.
How can we continue to support a procurement led community pharmacy service when we need it to be clinically driven. Not just in a few, but in them all.
I know that even Dr Ridge has been a little dismissive of clinical pharmacy in community pharmacy and I don’t blame him – it has been talked about for 20 years with limited progress. We still have no understanding of the function and we desperately need an alternative definition to medicines optimisation – even considering moving back to patient care. In fact I believe it has got worse where in some cases dispensing speed is valued more than clinical ability. There is little training that is appropriate for clinical community pharmacy specialists and some of the profession has just lost their way. That light at the end of the tunnel may have gone out.
So who speaks for the individual community pharmacists?
I am a little tired of owners wringing their hands and saying woe is me. The contract is up for change. It has to be a big change that gives hopes to every stakeholder that change is coming. Pharmacists want a bigger role. The NHS needs us to change – our customers/patients need us to change.
I want us to change
Community Pharmacy should be the jewel in the community crown and with General Practice the jewels in the NHS crown.
Who is up for it?