Views

Onlooker hopes for a Hammond u-turn

Onlooker hopes for a Hammond u-turn and recalls times gone by.

Notes from a secret meeting

Our correspondent draws together the threads running through the judicial review hearing and is very disturbed by what he sees

View from the front

Incensed proprietor Sid Dajani finds an official’s briefing on the cuts hard to swallow.  

Some hopes!

Onlooker ponders comments made by pharmacy ministers past and present.

Crying out for common sense

Sid Dajani gets distracted by a meeting about Healthy Living Pharmacy.

The way ahead

As many readers of this column will be aware, Pharmacy Voice will cease to operate in a few months’ time. At this point we are still deciding how and when. The constitution of the company does not allow for it to continue when one of the three member associations (NPA, AIMp and CCA) has given notice, as the NPA did at the end of 2016. Whether Pharmacy Voice exists as the vehicle to support, represent and deliver change on behalf of the community pharmacy sector is no longer the issue. The question is whether the sector still has an important journey to go on collectively, and if so how does it find a new mode of transport when the Pharmacy Voice vehicle is left by the roadside.

Hunt talks tripe

Jeremy’s been at it again – patronising community pharmacy. He’s been telling Parliament that the NHS should not “continue to subsidise pharmacies that are very close to other pharmacies”. It doesn’t make sense, he insisted, claiming that 40 per cent of pharmacies are in clusters of three or more. And, as with the rest of the NHS, community pharmacy has to make efficiency savings. According to him, the government’s “reforms” are “designed to ensure that, where there is only one local pharmacy that people can access, that pharmacy is protected”.

Plus and minus in December

Thursday December 1The dreaded cuts come into effect today in spite of our collective efforts, resulting in a flurry of activity by pharmacy organisations. The NPA has been at the forefront of campaigning, raising an unprecedented 2.2m signatures opposing cuts through community pharmacies in England. I speak to several colleagues, whose views range from anger to disbelief. Many did not expect the cuts to be implemented as proposed, hoping for a last-minute reprieve or, at least, some concession.

An institutional prejudice

Seeing an article in the Daily Telegraph of December 27, 2016 by the chief nursing officer at NHS England (Jane Cummings) about doing more to treat patients at home made me wonder whether Keith Ridge, the chief pharmaceutical officer, would be able to write an equivalent piece. Ms Cummings makes much of the great pressures the NHS is facing and about it having to adapt to meet the ever-growing demands on it. She talks of more resources going into general practice and other facilities. What would Dr Ridge be able to write?

Never hurray a Murray

It took him long enough, didn’t it? It’s been 12 years since Keith Ridge was appointed as chief pharmaceutical officer at the Department of Health and finally he’s managed to clear his in-tray and get round to commissioning an independent report on clinical services in community pharmacy – by the director of policy at the King’s Find, Richard Murray. It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? I mean, I know it takes a while to settle into a new job, and I’m sure the poor chap has had his plate full, but you would have thought that with all the problems the NHS is facing at the moment he would have been busier than ever. Still, better late than never, eh?

Going, going, gone!

It has been an enormous privilege and I have been fortunate enough to be asked to speak at several weddings, forums all over the world, and even three eulogies. Two of these requests came from patients’ families, and at the last one the priest joked he was scared because it sounded like I could do his job! But an old university friend who’d been let down at the last minute gave me a unique invitation that I couldn’t refuse. We met at her local town hall, which was stuffed to the gunwales with people who’d donated prizes. There were dozens of them, and I know because I was the auctioneer.

Lessons from Borgen and a New Year message

Onlooker compares BBC4 drama Borgen to events at the Pharmaceutical Journal

Cuts and more cuts

Wednesday November 2 I am at the LPC Conference at the Congress Centre in London today and am surprised the health minister, David Mowat, attends and is robust in announcing that cuts will go ahead in the face of a lukewarm reception from delegates. He states an intention to move community pharmacy into a future shaped around services largely commissioned locally, admitting that this will be easier to bring about in some areas than others. Sue Sharpe speaks of betrayal by the DH’s disregard of the value of community pharmacy and dismissal of concerns of patients who rely on the care provided by community pharmacy teams.

Paying through the nose

Last month we heard the unedifying news that pharmaceutical companies were ripping off the NHS by charging inflated prices for generic medicines. The practice was first revealed in June 2016 by The Times, but it took a further six months for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to announce its decision to fine Pfizer a record £84.2m and Flynn Pharma an additional £5.2m for charging “excessive and unfair prices” for phenytoin capsules. It seems incredible that generic medicines can be priced at levels many times higher than the cost of the original branded product.

Did Christmas come early?

Just this week, NHS England published its independent review of community pharmacy clinical services that was undertaken by Richard Murray of the King’s Fund. I wish I could be encouraged by it, but I’m feeling too disheartened by the way we’ve been treated this year. On the face of it, there’s abundant good news, but I don’t see how the report’s recommendations can be implemented without significant investment. We read that renewed efforts are needed “to make the most of the existing clinical services that community pharmacy can provide and to do so at pace”. Great!

Health warning: safety margin has been cut

A dispensing error has made the news. An unconscious baby was rushed to hospital after being given an anti-psychotic drug, olanazapine, instead of omeprazole. It was a case of the right label, wrong drug. The impact of such incidents on the patient and their family is uppermost in our minds when things go wrong because we share the pain, feel the anger, experience the hurt and reflect on the sorrow made worse by the fact that we’re to blame. Saying sorry is never enough, and there are no words to embroider around that fact.

Sore throats, mixed message

The big story about pharmacy in the past week or so (yes, I know – the only story we’re really interested in is the one about the looming pharmacy cuts – about which, more later!) has been the news that NHS England has selected the sore throat scheme piloted by Boots to be one of eight to be included in this year’s NHS Innovation Accelerator programme. For this year, the criteria for selection were that projects had to focus on prevention, early intervention and management of long-term conditions, all of which are highly relevant to community pharmacy.  

Geoff Booth, professor of pharmacy practice, remembered

I was saddened to learn of the death of Geoff Booth. Geoff turned pharmacy practice into an academic discipline and was the first professor of the subject, establishing a chair at the University of Bradford. He was a member of the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society and president for two terms in the 1980s. I heard him speak on many occasions over the years but (perhaps it is my age) I can’t remember a single thing he said, except for the phrase: “The Council does not give a monkey’s”. The context in which he used those words is a matter of minor dispute. But I need to set the scene. The Council of the Society in the late 1980s was agonising over just how pharmacists should exercise their responsibilities in the supervision of dispensing.

Hats off to Wales

For some, there’s better news “We’re recognising that it’s about quality, regarding community pharmacy remuneration. The health minister for Wales, Vaughan Gething, announced that, unlike in England, funding for community pharmacy wil lnot be cut. Hurrah! Instead, pharmacists in Wales will be rewarded for improving medicines safety and for providing clinical services. That’s not to say the pharmacy contract in Wales won’t change; it almost certainly will, but clinical services will take priority over dispensing. MrGething said: "We're recognising that it's about quality, not just quantity.”

OK computer

For most of us, the realms of IT stretch to sitting down with a cuppa, cranking up the computer, deleting every third email on the basis that if it was important they’d send it again, and checking the news on an app. I am no different, although I did chair the Pan- Pharmacy Information Management and Technology Group for six years after arguing how valuable such a committee would be for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. It’s now called the Pharmacy Digital Forum and is no less important. When we started out we were talking about IT being a luxury to help our workload. Now it’s an obligatory tool we can’t do without. Back then we were about doing more with our glorified labelling machines.

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