Empty words, empty promises?
Mandeep Mudhar, director of marketing and development at Numark, is disappointed by attitudes at theÂ recent APPG meeting
Iâ€™ve been reflecting following the All-Parliamentary Pharmacy Group meeting last month where the heavyweights of the political world of pharmacy turned up. Â The minister responsible for pharmacy and the chief pharmaceutical officer (CPO) for England were there, together with a whole load of other important people attempting to influence the direction of travel for pharmacy.
Once again, I was left with much head scratching. Thereâ€™s new jargon to interpret and many unanswered questions about the futility of it all. Â Â
So letâ€™s start with the head scratching. Â When asked about progress regarding the Murray Review â€“ the review that looked at expanding clinical services that community pharmacies could provide, a progress that had been promised by NHS England â€“ the response was to forget that. In our CPOâ€™s view, the report has already been taken into account. Really? Â Which bit? Â About re-designing MURs so that they become a full clinical medication review? Â No. Â About expanding the commissioning of minor ailments services? Â Not that either, nothing has happened. In fact, later at this meeting, after having received a hospital pass from the pharmacy minister, Dr Ridge stated that minor ailments schemes were being increasingly decommissioned and needed to be replaced by - and hereâ€™s the jargon â€“ â€˜digitally led solutionsâ€™. So, I presume robots dealing with minor ailments?
Anyway, back to the Murray Review. Dr Ridge was keen to point out that one of the recommendations from the review â€“ that of pharmacist integration into GP practices â€“ was well underway.Â So letâ€™s see; the parts of the review that spoke about enhancing the role of community pharmacists â€“ all binned. The part about creating another type of pharmacist, further blurring the lines between what a community pharmacist should be doing and what practice-integrated pharmacists intend to do â€“ full speed ahead. Â Another body blow to community pharmacy.
Remember the burial of the â€˜Call to Actionâ€™ review in 2014? We should have known better when we saw the Murray Review. We should have known it would go nowhere; but we are not cynics, we are caring health care professionals trying to do our best for our patients. I suspect cynicism will now be the order of the day with anything the Government pretends to offer pharmacy.
But let me go back to the minor ailments saga. A year ago, it was something that the Government deemed important and one that ministers were committed to ensuring CCGs provide. Â A year on, the clock has moved on according to our pharmacy minister. The robotic solution suggested by Dr Ridge has clearly taken demand away from GPs and A&E and everyone in the land is happy. No more clogging of surgeries or hospitals and pharmacies do not need to deal with patients with pesky conditions... Â Maybe these robots can now move onto sorting out all the failing hospitals since they are so brilliant?
So I make a plea: for once, just once, deliver on your promises dear ministers. Just once, dear CPO, stand up and be counted for the profession you oversee. Â Just once, let us see something tangible carried through that allows community pharmacists to provide enhanced services and care for their patients with some sensible remuneration and sustainability. Â Might that be the most obvious thing that comes to everyoneâ€™s mind - a national minor ailment scheme? Â
From Numark'sÂ perspective and on behalf of our members, we will continue to maintain a dialogue with NHS England and the Department of Health. We are not letting anyone off the hook. Promises have to be delivered. Not much to ask for â€“ or is it?