Junior doctors in England went on strike for a second time on February 10. Shame on them! Call themselves professionals? I was always told that being a professional set a calling apart. Members of a profession put the public interest above their own. There are codes of conduct embodying this selfless approach. Indeed, the current code for doctors requires them to put patients first. As I have said before, I don’t see how doctors can do that if they are on strike.
Which gives rise to a second issue. Where has the General Medical Council been in all this? It never seems to get a mention. Will it be doing anything to discipline doctors for dereliction of duty? There is, however, no sign of this happening. The GMC does not seem to set much of an example, intimidated as it seems to be by a powerful trade union in the form of the BMA.
The current row stems from the government’s wish for better seven-day working in NHS hospitals, which is a reasonable aim, since people have the inconvenient habit of having medical needs any day of the week. It wants to change junior doctors’ contracts to facilitate this. The sticking point seemed to be premium payments for Saturday working. Community pharmacists, for whom Saturday working is the norm and who are threatened with a severe, DH-imposed cut in remuneration, will not have much sympathy for this, I reckon. The medics are trying to dress the row up as a patient safety issue but, in reality, it is all about money.
Which brings me to the current situation facing community pharmacists. The DH seems to want pharmacists to operate clinically but has done hardly anything to create an environment for that to happen.
The Department does not regard the dispensing of prescriptions as a clinical function. With its sudden espousal of hub-and-spoke systems, it seems to see medicines supply as a warehouse-delivery function, requiring minimal professional input. But, apart from a few MURs, a severely limited NMS, and a patchwork of clinical services that may or may not be commissioned locally, the DH has done very little to promote a clinical future for pharmacy.
Frustratingly, for example, it sets up the means for pharmacists to become supplementary and independent prescribers but does practically nothing to create an environment where prescriber pharmacists can exercise their skills.
If Keith Ridge, the chief pharmaceutical officer, wants pharmacists to operate clinically he must say what he means and establish substantial systems for clinical activity to take place and be rewarded financially.
Pharmacy cannot afford another MDS-type scenario, where we saw a patient need for monitored doses in special packs and set about meeting it, only to find the NHS did not want to foot the bill.
This is my message to Keith Ridge – put your money where your mouth is!
Modesty is not a feature of the medical profession.
It certainly is not evident in a consultant’s letter in the Daily Telegraph of February 13. In the letter, the consultant describes doctors as the “intellectual cream of the medical workforce” and goes on to say that their professional ethos has been undermined by “those in the public sector less able than them”. Undermined by the great unwashed? Undermined by going on strike, more likely!
So it will be no surprise to readers that I am pleased that the chief executive of PSNC is against strike action, despite the fact that a majority of community pharmacists in a recent poll seemed to be in favour. Community pharmacists, unlike junior doctors, are contractors and they do not enjoy the same immunities if they take industrial action as employees. They are also not immune to loss of public goodwill and to loss of professional business to those who don’t join in. You can bet your bottom dollar that the multiples would not be coming out.