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Onlooker's notebook - May 2017

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Onlooker's notebook - May 2017

As someone of a certain vintage, I do not know quite how to feel about this extract from a reader’s letter in the Daily Mail on April 7: “. . . I had my own [chemistry] lab 60 years ago when I was at school. In those days, you could get any chemical you wanted from an old-style chemist (not pharmacies – the staff in the latter wouldn’t know what you were talking about). I made explosives including nitroglycerin, gun cotton, mercury fulminate, cordite, etc. I blew my auntie’s window out with common weed killer.” I have decided to take it as a compliment. But I’m not sure that is a wise decision.

I read that a pharmacist with a previously unblemished record has been struck off because he did MURs without being accredited to do so. There was no indication that the reviews he carried out compromised the care of patients. The crime was that he did not do an accreditation course and get a certifi cate to say that he had done so, and he thereby deceived his employer. But a striking off seems harsh. A warning or imposition of a condition on his registration would seem to me to have been a better bet. The General Pharmaceutical Council even suggests that dishonesty, which is what we are talking about here, might not always deserve the ultimate sanction and that any decision would depend on the circumstances. In this case, the pharmacists said that he was being put under pressure to meet targets. This does not seem to me to be a made-up excuse. There has been plenty of well-documented controversy over that in the past. This pharmacist seems to have become a particular cropper over it.

Independent community pharmacists, I would guess, are by their nature as entrepreneurs likely to support a Conservative government. But are they likely to support this government, which in England at least has given them a good kicking. I would guess that a good many might be tempted to follow the advice of the late Professor Ian Jones, who advised against ever electing a Tory administration, as community pharmacy always fares worse under one. The election, of course, will give pharmacists the opportunity to let their prospective MPs know what they think of government policy towards pharmacy, especially if they are Conservatives. I suggest they get hold of a facsimile of Philip Hammond’s notorious missive to the Prime Minister – the one that saw the supply of medicines under the NHS as being equivalent to a retail market – and see what any Conservative party candidates have to say about it. Ade Williams, interviewed in this issue, says that individual pharmacists should help the national bodies in pharmacy by doing their bit at the grassroots level. Here is a golden opportunity.

The BBC 10 O’clock News on April 26 had an item about an issue facing Tim Farron, the Lib Dem leader – with a reporter talking to him about it on the day. I was surprised to see that the encounter took place in a setting which had a Support Your Local Pharmacy poster on the wall. In a later shot, Mr F is seen outside what I soon recognised to be the National Pharmacy Association’s headquarters in St Albans, along with a bunch of people holding distinctive, orange-coloured placards towards the camera. (The placard-bearers will have been bussed in as I can’t imagine the NPA staff doing the honours). Mr F must have been called to Mallinson House by the NPA in furtherance of its campaign against the pharmacy cuts. But that message got lost as the BBC seems to have had a different need on the day. Still, the poster got an airing, and, if what we have been told about the effect of subliminal advertising is true, it could be having a profound effect.

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