It all kicked off on Twitter as the Sigma conference got under way in the picturesque province of Cebu in the Philippines this month.
“In these straitened times of a hostile funding environment with the threat of mass pharmacy closures, I for one think it is important that contractors put on an outward display of confidence by attending a junket in the Philippines,” tweeted the academic Joe Bush.
The Liberal Democrat councillor and independent pharmacy contractor Mike Hewitson soon waded in.
“Every year I criticise them for the same thing. Think about the carbon footprint - there is no excuse for it. Trade press complicit I’m afraid (sorry guys, I understand it’s probably a nice gig, but it really doesn’t help the sector).”
Some might think they have a point. Appearances are important. Ask the Labour MP Barry Gardiner who, as the shadow floods minister back in 2014, attended the Sigma conference in sun-drenched Mexico as communities across the UK counted the cost of devastating floods. It did not look great.
But there was something unsettling about Bush’s sarcastic critique of contractors many of whom had shelled out their hard-earned money to make the trip. Not to mention Hewitson’s critique of those members of the pharmacy trade press, myself included, who made the 6,750-mile journey to the Philippines.
These events have their fair share of downtime but why should the press be deprived of the chance to report on what PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes has to say about the community pharmacy contractual framework or Pharmacists’ Defence Association chairman Mark Koziol's opinion (both transmitted from the UK) about community pharmacy supervision just because their views were being heard in the Philippines? Or anywhere else in the world?
Is it not important for reporters to relay what British Generics Manufacturers Association director general Warwick Smith has to say on drug price increases and shortages or LPC secretary Hemant Patel’s view about collaboration - hugely important issues for independent pharmacists?
The trade press understands the struggles they face day in, day out as they report on the stories that matter to them. And journalists go where the stories are. As for contractors, it is up to them how they spend their money.
In the cold light of day, Hewitson and Bush might reflect that their criticism was far from fair.
Neil Trainis is the editor of Independent Community Pharmacist.
Picture: id-work (iStock)