Pharmacists and the game of politics

THERE is an idea floating around the pharmacy profession that pharmacy can win favour with government by highlighting its worth: if we show the powers that be all the good work we do, they will see sense and treat us better (i.e. more funding).

However, I think this is wishful thinking. If proving your worth got you anywhere, there would be no reports of nurses using food banks, and the junior doctors would not have gone on strike.

Does proving your worth get you anywhere? Let’s look at a profession who get well treated by government. In 2008 when the financial system collapsed, bankers went to the politicians and said we need money. The politicians said, how much? The bankers said billions and without much hesitation they got what they wanted. Did they get billions because they had proven their worth?

My understanding of what happened is this: the bankers threatened chaos — they told the politicians if they don’t get the money, no money will come out of ATMs and wages will not get transferred into workers accounts. Whether this was true or a bluff, we will never know, but what we do know is that the politicians believed the bankers were crazy/smart (whichever way you look at it) enough to do it.

They got the money. Billions.

Now I am not suggesting pharmacists threaten chaos. We would not have it in us to follow through on it and no one will fall for our bluff. We do need to become a lot more street smart about politics though. The economic belief of the day is austerity and no amount of showing our worth is going to get us more funding. We need to accept this. Economic illiteracy is our enemy.

Pharmacists are smart people and economics is not nearly as hard to understand as some people pretend, so I think economics should be taught as an additional module on every pharmacy degree. There is no historical record of severe austerity leading to strong economic performance: it does not work. Even leaving the immorality of austerity aside, the economics of it doesn’t work. Politicians should not expand health services and invest more in pharmacy because we are worth it, they should do it because it is a smart economic decision to do so.

Pharmacists need to learn about economics and get more involved in the national discussions about how best to run the economy. I would recommend Joseph Stiglitz as a good starting point to read about how austerity stifles an economy.

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