The soul of my noble profession is being destroyed bit by bit and day by day.
My profession of pharmacy faces ‘uncertain future’ when the world I live in, has increased need for healthcare.
I’m confused, scared, and sad.
But, then again, I’m also proud of my profession that gives me my identity as a pharmacist, as a person, as a loyal citizen of my country whose health needs are growing and increasingly unmet by the greatest health system in the world which we call the NHS. The NHS is poorly informed of pharmacists contribution and future potential and the consequences for the people of my country are severe and people are losing hope. For example, patients with diabetes who have toe ulcers could benefit from faster clinical attention in order to prevent the more serious outcome of gangrene or lower-extremity amputations. My profession can help avoid that individual misery and help maintain independence and productivity yet their skills and presence in the health system are being deliberately ignored by the commissioners and the Government. As the number of people living with the condition continues to escalate, Diabetes UK is warning that the need for the NHS to commit to providing adequate care and diabetes education across the UK is more urgent than ever. Until this happens large numbers of people will end up experiencing potentially preventable diabetes-related complications such as blindness, kidney failure and amputation.
At the moment, more than 24,000 people a year with diabetes die before their time. Diabetes is not the only long term condition that is claiming lives. So is asthma, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and mental illness. The system is in need of change and is overwhelmed. My fellow pharmacists are begging for opportunities to improve care. Yet, many pharmacists cannot get a job or their rates are comparable to that of support staff when they do get a job.
Whilst overworked pharmacists are naturally focused on ‘here and now’ issues there is little or no evidence of an organised effort to plan for the future leaving me scared, frustrated, in pain and at times, in a paralysed mental state. This is not what my idol, the founder of our Society, Jacob Bell who set firmly on the road the long process of establishing the professional status of pharmacy envisioned for the profession. He was politically astute and had high hopes of progress and prosperity for our profession and certainty of a role in the healthcare system.
Earlier, I said my profession was noble. And, here is why I believe it is noble. As pharmacists, we save lives and improve health. Because we are dealing with human lives, because we are imposed with a sense of personal responsibility to use our skills to help those who need it, because based on their previous experience the public trusts us and are looking forward to us to take on greater responsibility, because you were caring and helped them when their father was approaching his end of life. Because you served like an angel.
Speaking in technical terms, but much more likely political jargon, the dispassionate planners are not only destroying the soul of my profession but could end up killing it. Yes, my statement is emotional but that is because I speak to my beleaguered fellow pharmacists and see evidence of stress, distress and unfair rejection that affects them at work, in life and leaves them disillusioned and without hope. It is for that reason that, as an experienced pharmacist with fresh ideas, I want to help my fellow pharmacists avert a catastrophe of gigantic proportions. Whilst dealing with the ‘here and now’ issues we must focus on a task to re-position our profession by engaging in an important conversation with every pharmacist and asking them what the profession of pharmacy could look like in 2025. Collective wisdom and intellect of the various sectors in all three countries should enable us to distil carefully considered ideas into an ambitious vision for transforming the profession fit for 2025. Let’s call it #Pharmacy2025.
Then, we must convince the public that it is in their interest to support the pharmacists’ vision. No small task but doable and politically, financially, and in relationship terms astute. Once that is accomplished we should then put pressure on the mealy-mouthed politicians to force the NHS to take pharmacists more seriously. The reason why we should go to the public first is that they have a vote and the localisation agenda puts them in a firm position to influence local decisions where the pharmacists are losing out to well organised and politically savvy doctors. I’m not talking about a petition; I am talking about an organised effort using our existing relationships and modern technology to engage with the public over a number of years. And, using their connections, power and support to convince the politicians that they do not have an option but to back pharmacy.
There are a few pharmacists who can help devise a way out of ‘here and now’ issues. There are even fewer pharmacists with the mind and dedication to help re-position the profession and political nous to devise a plan to hold politicians and commissioners accountable. I hope and pray that if given an opportunity to help my profession by my fellow pharmacists I have the energy, dedication, ideas and support of the RPS English pharmacy board to earnestly start the #Pharmacy2025 conversation’ within the profession to deliver what Jacob Bell wanted for future generations, including those following in my footsteps. We have to act to restore the soul of our noble profession and its vitality. Forming the Society could not have been easy but Jacob Bell and others did not flinch. Neither should we.
Your vote in the Board elections is a time-limited asset. Please use it to allow you and fellow pharmacists to gain an advantage and take a step towards a more secure and rewarding future.
Hemant Patel, FRPharmS, DipPharmacol, M.I.Mg, is secretary at North East London Local Pharmaceutical Committee four-time former president of the RPSGB. Hemant understands community pharmacy. He specifically possesses a deep understanding of pharmacy practice, education, regulation and politics and has led innovative projects in medicines management, public health and retailing. He also served as chairman of NPA, vice-chairman of PSNC and a consultant to a number of pharmaceutical companies. UK Delegation member, Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union, Europharm Forum, UK Delegation member, Representative, Community Pharmacy Section, FIP, Vice-President, Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Association, Director of Havering Healthwatch.