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Leading a continent

PGEU president and NPA board member Raj Patel talks about his work as the last UK leader of the European Union-affiliated pharmacy body

There are 160,000 community pharmacies across 34 European member states and tens of millions of people walk through their doors every day, seeking medication, help and advice.

Influencing policy and lobbying for community pharmacies across the UK is complex enough, but this year I face the challenge of uniting the sector across the whole of Europe in my new role as president of the Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union.

The PGEU’s main objective is to advance the contribution of community pharmacists to European health systems, society and individual patients. This might all seem very distant from the day-to-day concerns
of pharmacists in the UK, but in fact many regulations and laws that affect pharmacy here in the UK are intertwined with European rules.

In recent times, the EU Falsified Medicines Directive has never been far beneath the surface. Do not imagine this has gone away just because of the UK’s decision to exit the EU! Even a ‘hard Brexit’ is unlikely to significantly change the obligations on pharmacies here in the UK. Keep an eye out for NPA advice on the steps you should be taking to prepare for implementation.

I am currently working with the European Medical Association to see how we can form a shared agenda for the forthcoming year. To this end, a doctors’ delegation recently met PGEU colleagues and we’re working towards a common statement of objectives.

Being part of this Europe-wide network is also a helpful way to keep in touch with developments in pharmacy business and practice. Something that caught my eye recently was an IT platform in Italy which allows patients to book selected services from nurses, physiotherapists and specialist doctors, via their local pharmacy. The idea of community pharmacies as the point of access to wider health services is gaining traction in other parts of Europe as well as in the UK.

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