Let’s come together…right now!
Cornwall & Isles of Scilly LPC recently said thank you to its contractors for their heroic efforts over the past two years. But what we all need is a unifying vision, says Nick Kaye…
Not long ago, as I was walking back to the dispensary after a consultation at the pharmacy counter, a lady in her early 70s shouted across to people that who were waiting to say: ‘Excuse me, young man, I want a word with you!’
This surprised me for two reasons. At 46, I very rarely get called ‘young man’ anymore, but this lady said I was young since ‘it just depends on what age you are looking at it from’. I thought that was a fair point but also started wondering what was coming next and what ‘word’ she wanted to have with me.
I was racking my brains. Was her prescription late? Did I give her that brand of tablets she hates again? But no, to my surprise the word she wanted to say was ‘thank you’. She went on to remind me that last week I had helped her with an injury to her arm that had become infected. On that day no other part of the healthcare system could see her, but she was now ‘much better’ and that was down to me!
Although I don’t believe I had much to do with her arm healing, she believed I did and to her the ‘thank you’ was lovely. ‘Thank you’ seems such an easy thing to say, but it sometimes feels that they are words you hear less and less in the delivery of frontline services.
However, in Cornwall in late August, the LPC decided it would say thank you to the pharmacy teams in its patch for everything they have done over the past two years and continue to do. It was decided to hold an event at a local hotel, with a nationally recognised speaker, followed by a dinner and awards.
The proposal was challenged – quite rightly – by the Committee, which was concerned that in a county where there are only 98 contractors there was a likelihood that more than 30 people would turn up. I was absolutely amazed and heartened to say that when we got to 100, we had to close the attendee list.
What I hadn’t expected was the need for people to reconnect with colleagues, peers and pharmacy friends they hadn't seen in a long time. It was also great to see different parts of the health care system wanting to come and say thank you.
There were folk from the local medical committee, the integrated care board and secondary care colleagues, PSNC regional reps and national speakers. It was humbling but also made me so very proud of the sector. Awards for Covid Hero and Walk-In Consultation Champion were also given out.
The Covid Hero award went to a single-handed pharmacy owner who kept open through the pandemic. Shan had set up a Covid vaccination clinic and walked to elderly patients to deliver medicines and check on them, showing why it is called ‘community’ pharmacy. The WIC Champion award went to an excellent Day Lewis pharmacist. Patrick had embraced the service and run with it, showing how much of a benefit it is to patients.
The third award of the evening was for an individual’s contribution to pharmacy in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. This went to an ex-community pharmacist who had moved from Swindon to join the medicines optimisation team and risen to lead it. Georgina had never been out for praise but had quietly gone about championing pharmacy and all it can do.
I am sure that her hard work in getting local services commissioned has helped many more people than she could know and, although now retiring, Georgina for me was an example of how to use position and influence in the right way.
She was not looking for recognition, not worried about her legacy, but just getting on with doing what she thought was right for the people of Cornwall and community pharmacy.
I wonder how many of us in leadership positions can say that this is what we do? How many of us look at the bigger picture?
Maybe what we need to do is come together around a vison and principles for the future of community pharmacy in England. It should be something our paymasters can buy into, something the sector can unite around that will allow those great frontline practitioners like Patrick and Shan to flourish, knowing their futures are exciting, rewarding and sustainable.
That’s when those of us in leadership will deserve a thank you.
Nick Kaye is vice-chair of the National Pharmacy Association and a community pharmacist based in Newquay. These are his personal views.