Sid Dajani takes to the stage in a bid to shut out the Department of Health's latest theatrics

May I be philosophical with you for a moment? I’ve come to the conclusion that life is an effort that deserves a better cause. Despite everyday pressures, previous financial cutbacks and institutional political cynicism, we always bow, scrape, doff our caps, tug our forelocks and turn the other cheek. Day-in, day-out we come to work with relentless optimism, enthusiasm and professional evangelism. Yet, we continue unrecognised, unappreciated and professionally insulted.

Now with even further funding cuts and category M clawbacks behind Department of Health (DH) voodoo mathematical thinking (because it’s certainly not based on evidence or future proofing) we are now utterly fed-up.

Feeling particularly upset after the latest missive from the DH and the whole Brexit affair, I decided to join a local amateur dramatic group. The only thing amateurish about this production however, was me! What an amazing experience of teamwork: getting to know a very talented group, sharing a vision and dying on stage, literally. I didn’t just tread the boards, I fell on them. Not accidently, or because I was hamming it up, but because I was shot dead! Who’d have thought a Jane Austen novel could be so violent? My only criticism was the woman I was shot for could have acted a little more like the famous Juliet (after waking up in the tomb), rather than showing as much glee as Robespierre lopping off the head of Marie Antoinette!

That’s a moot point as the DH is being very Robespierre with community pharmacy right now. Rather than showing Juliet-style regret in not allowing a pharmacy a fair chance to do more – such as commissioning pharmacy prescribing, introducing a minor ailment service, maximising our potential, helping us to meet capacity and allowing us to be the first port of call – it is lopping off our heads with unsustainable funding, harsh cuts, diverting resources to untrained GP-based pharmacists, preventing commissioning and taking services away from community pharmacies. Not only do they want to close down community pharmacies they want to take pharmacists, the only science-literate professionals on the high street, out of the remaining pharmacies and upskill technicians to be pseudo-pharmacists.

Under-utilised resource
We dispense over a billion items a year with amazing safety, meet patients with unexpected needs, make opportunistic interventions, promote ourselves as the only healthcare professional with no appointments and little waiting times. We are competent and trained to make lives better. We save lives through years of science-based, health literacy training and competencies. We promote healthy living, prevent disease and prolong lives through independent living, medicines optimisation, pharmaceutical care, clinical services, public health and holistic care.

So, it is truly amazing that neither the government nor the public recognise the resource we are and how this government is sacrificing the profession at the altar of false economy. It is shortsighted and naive when they treat us like shopkeepers and deny we are clinical pharmacists. No wonder we are deemed the Cinderella of the professions! Our profession is like a cursed princess in a fairytale thanks to the ugly sisters bending the truth upstairs at the DH.

But on TV you can’t be depressing or pessimistic... And so, there I was on a Sky lifestyle programme explaining the role of the pharmacist in general health and fitness. I was on the show with the resident GP, called Rob, and an international model and dancer-turned-personal-fitness-trainer. I was only meant to be interviewed for six minutes but the interview lasted for 10. Offcamera the interviewer, Chrissy B, told me she had learned a lot and couldn’t believe the diversity of our role. She even asked why our role was so mystical that nobody seemed to know of what we did! It took me three hours after a hard day’s graft to get to the studio; I was there for an hour and it took two to get home. I was back after midnight and was at work the next day. Even if one person changes their view of pharmacy, or realises something they’ve never known, then it was all worth it.

Brexit brouhaha
I’ve recently attended my first Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union meeting after a general election that was pinned on Brexit. The general election result will not help people whose lives and families depend on the health service; nor the 1m frail elderly who don’t get social-care support they need; nor the 400,000 waiting for an operation; nor the understaffed, NHS team who work around rota gaps and the pillaging of community pharmacy.

This was an unnecessary, costly election called to provide Theresa May with backbenchers who would support her when the Brexit talks didn’t go her way. However, it backfired. And, anyhow, regardless of the election the outcome won’t make a blind bit of difference to Jeanne-Claude Juncker, Jose Manuel Barroso, Donald Tusk, Frans Timmermans, Tintin, Snowy, Captain Haddock or Asterix the Gaul.

The fact is there are 27 countries that will decide the deal we get. For them, a cohesive European project is at stake and nothing will stand in their way. We’ll get the deal France and Germany want and our future will be bound up in the fortunes of tourism, America, China and India. Still it’s a democracy, so the result must be right – at least if you believe in the Lemming principle!

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