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PJ Online homeThe Pharmaceutical Journal
Vol 274 No 7346 p491
23 April 2005

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Letters to the Editor

The profession

Let us be judged on something worthwhile

From Mr S. P. Bullock, MRPharmS

One day recently I spent almost half an hour trying to placate a customer. She had, she avowed, no intention of ever using our pharmacy again and would do her level best to ensure that none of her friends, neighbours or indeed anyone she had ever known did so either. What grievous misdemeanour had we committed? The photographs of her daughter’s wedding had been delayed at the processor. And I am — quite rightly perhaps since I will make a profit from the deal — to be held to account. I am, you see, a high street chemist — a shopkeeper. And so, in an age where all retailers are ruthless profiteers and the consumer is king, I am, in this customer’s eyes at least, deemed to be beneath contempt.

The next day I spent two hours with an elderly woman. I had access to her full medical history and at the end of our time together I made a clinical assessment and wrote her a prescription, having agreed with her GP to take responsibility for her medication for the next six months as a supplementary prescriber. The rest of the day was spent reviewing lipid-lowering medication for patients of a local medical practice with a view to reducing unnecessary expenditure without compromising clinical outcomes.

One pharmacist, two days’ work, but what different days! Is it really any wonder that there is a recruitment crisis in community pharmacy?

Some 25 years ago I proudly wrote “MPS” after my name for the first time. It said in The Journal that the profession was at a crossroads. Like so many young people I thought the world was for the taking and that every GP in town would be keen to benefit from my wisdom. Iatrogenic disease would be a thing of the past.

Of course, it did not happen. The cold wind of reality blew and chilled me into a state of professional torpor. We counted tablets and put labels on boxes. We sold cuddly toys and hair ornaments to make ends meet. In the meantime Nuffield came and went and we had Pharmacy in a New Age and other studies, which urged that the NHS should make better use of us.

And now, in 2005, we have a new contract with the NHS. Finally, somewhere in Whitehall the penny has dropped. It is different. It is new, and a bit scary for some. We are going to have to engage with primary care trusts but, unusually for NHS bodies, they seem want to talk to us. They want to look at new ways of delivering services and they are asking us to tell them what we have to offer. It looks as though there will, unfortunately, be some losers but, for the majority, the new contract is perhaps the best opportunity we have ever had to prove our worth and to show what we are capable of.

Of course, like any professional we have to give people the services they want and need but, for goodness sake, let us make sure we are judged on something a little more worthwhile than the speed of our photo-processing or the price of our hot water bottles.

Steve Bullock
Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire

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