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GP did pharmacists’ bidding over Pharmacy First


GP did pharmacists’ bidding over Pharmacy First

Last month, Dr Tony Copperfield, widely believed to be a pseudonym used by a GP in Essex, showed he was not so much a magician, more a minter of words. In his pharmacy critique in Pulse on February 14 - at least critique was how it initially came across - he described Pharmacy First as a “pharmishambles.”

The service, he said, was an “utterly predictable non-starter of yet another plan to reduce workload” on GPs, some of whom, he suggested, had been told by pharmacies that there was “no-one available to provide” Pharmacy First or “we’re too busy.” Or, and I found this unsettling and hard to believe at the same time, “we don’t manage shingles.”

Pharmacists, he claimed, were bouncing patients back to practices “because the pharmacy insists on e-referral” which although “technically correct” was “logically insane given patients can self-refer anyway.”

Harsh words, given we expected some teething problems with Pharmacy First in the opening weeks. Predictably, some pharmacists reacted to his musings with irritation on X. “When did Copperfield ever have anything positive to say about community pharmacy,” posted Letchworth Pharmacy owner Graham Phillips, who insisted his pharmacy “received well over 100 referrals from local GPs” and was “able to deal with over 90 per cent.” He also insisted, with justification, that Pharmacy First was “introduced at a ridiculous pace” and was “under-resourced.”

As Copperfield proceeded to knock community pharmacy for doing “one thing at a time OK, often with a need for supervision and low threshold for bouncing back to us,” compared to GPs who “do 100 things well,” I started to think this wasn’t much of a critique at all, rather a cry for help on behalf of pharmacies.

The article, somewhat bizarrely, felt supportive instead of confrontational which is what I expected it to be. If a publication as partisan as Pulse is willing to support pharmacy through its pages, pharmacy shouldn’t moan.

“I don’t blame the pharmacists for this debacle. We know whose fault it is,” Copperfield went on. We do indeed. Wouldn’t it be great if the wider general practice community campaigned on behalf of poorly funded and stretched pharmacies. Just a thought.

Neil Trainis is the editor of Independent Community Pharmacist.

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