DURING this last week I have been under scrutiny as I was alleged to have insulted community pharmacy, however let me reassure you, this was a result of inaccurate reporting of a private discussion. If anything I have said or done has been interpreted as insulting to any branch of pharmacy I apologise, remarks taken out of context are always open to misinterpretation. My actions are always with the best interests of all sectors of pharmacy in mind.
As a candidate for the English Pharmacy Board (EPB) Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) election I have refused to be drawn into discussing this on social media. However, this open letter is to demonstrate that far from being anti-community pharmacy throughout my period on EPB both as Chair and a member I have been hugely supportive of all sectors of pharmacy, including community pharmacy.
While Chair of EPB we developed five incredibly successful campaigns. These resulted in:
- Development of the role of the pharmacist in accident and emergency departments
- Initiation of the Summary Care Record pilots in community pharmacies
- Programmes for closer working with GP practices including the scheme to place pharmacists in GP surgeries
We lobbied hard for a national common ailment scheme and although unsuccessful many similar local schemes are now in place and we are currently campaigning to improve the use of medicines in care homes.
However that is the past, what of the future? This period of austerity and the introduction of the Health and Social Care Bill has set many parts of pharmacy back 15 years. Many schemes to further develop further clinical roles in primary care have been dismantled or not progressed in any meaningful way. I completely understand the anger and frustration across all sectors.
Those areas that have progressed have done so by demonstrating they save lives, achieved efficiencies and importantly save large amounts of money on the medicines bill via medicines optimisation. Throughout my campaign I have championed the need for the community pharmacy sector to move away from a volume dispensing based contract to one that rewards saving lives, achieving efficiencies and reducing the medicines bill.
This does not insult community pharmacists, it demonstrates that community pharmacists are a vital part of the NHS in the day-to-day lives of the public. I believe that the programmes with GP surgeries will, when fully embedded ,enable community pharmacists to develop exciting clinical partnerships that enhance their status and ability to optimise medicines use. I am also championing hospital outreach which will make a further opportunity for close working with specialist pharmacists. We need our negotiators to make such close and collaborative working a fundamental building block of the contract.
Throughout this campaign and with the recent cuts campaign there have been many calls for unity. Regrettably, I see the opposite occurring. There is a feeling in community pharmacy that hospital pharmacists regard themselves as superior. Where such attitudes occur they need to change with all sectors working to a common and mutual reward system. Patients are common to all sectors and so should be the opportunities for pharmacists.
If you have not voted, will you please do so. The EPB needs to be representative of the whole profession and not totally dominated by one sector. The EPB Board members together with the RPS staff work incredibly hard to improve the opportunities for pharmacists in all sectors, and for the RPS to continue to be successful it needs to work with but remain independent of large commercial interests.
I hope as a profession, we can all move forward on the basis of a common agenda.
David Branford is a fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, a Faculty Fellow and independent pharmacy advisor. He is standing for election to the English Pharmacy Board
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