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Naming and shaming does nobody any good

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Naming and shaming does nobody any good

The MailOnline recently published a list of the ‘UK’s worst-performing chemists’ and invited readers to see if their pharmacy was among them. But what is the human cost to the people running those pharmacies, asks Nick Kaye

 

Am I any good? This is a question most of us will ask ourselves, whether it’s professionally or personally at some point in our lives.

For me, it’s a moment of self-reflection most of the time and I don’t always get the answer I want for myself. I rarely feel I am doing everything I can do since my home-life balance is particularly tricky for me.

However, what happens when it’s someone else who’s saying we are not good enough? A patient? Maybe your partner? Your kids? Your parents? Can we take that on board and rationalise it?

Does it matter where that call for improvement comes from? Can we make our world better or conclude that we have behaved in a way that is appropriate? What happens, though, when that power is shifted? What happens when self-reflection is not enough? What happens when our regulator, the General Pharmaceutical Council, tells you that you are not good enough or that standards have not been met?

How does that affect us, our mental health or our abilities to improve? Just as importantly, how does that impact the care we give our patients and our ability to meet their needs?

I think most of us would use these outcomes to try and improve the way in which we practice and use the inspection as a learning outcome. I strongly believe that no-one sets off in the morning thinking ‘I want to do a rubbish job.’

No-one is the villain of their story but what happens if this point of underperformance is then highlighted to the world in the national press, as recently happened in a MailOnline article?

For those who haven’t seen it, it published a list of the ‘worst pharmacies in the country’ and invited you to check and see if your pharmacy was one of those on its interactive map.

To be fair to MailOnline, it did have quotes from pharmacy leaders explaining that the pharmacies highlighted represented less than one per cent of all pharmacies. But it got me thinking about whether the right way to highlight underperformance was to name and shame. Was that really constructive?

We all accept the need for inspections but will this really help? What is the human cost to the people running the pharmacy and what is the right balance in protecting the public?

Now to be fair to the GPhC, this is a line they have to grapple with every day and I do believe they have a difficult line to tread – looking after the wellbeing of those struggling whilst also protecting the public. I do think the senior leadership at the GPhC try and balance this responsibly, but is such a public outing the best way of doing it?

I think if a business or an individual is struggling, then applying even more pressure is unlikely to drive a better outcome. Surely a better way would be to try and understand why the pharmacy has unperformed and help that pharmacy reach the required standard.

If we look across other sectors of primary care, lots of resource is put into helping improve standards. For example, general practices that are struggling to meet their required standards receive help. This type of understanding, support and resources should also be made available to support struggling pharmacies.

If we really are truly equal within primary care, this also opens up questions about primary care investing in pharmacy in terms of estate and IT infrastructure rather than making us pay for our own systems and buildings.

I also think the MailOnline article shows that bad news sells better than good news – note how the article does not display the top 10 best pharmacies in the country, however balanced the narrative is.

As we all know, things that are on the internet are there forever. I wonder if these pharmacies that have underperformed in the eyes of the regulator will ever have the chance to show improvement to the world on the same level. Probably not, unfortunately, and that should be an uncomfortable place to be for everyone.

I believe the need for inspection, which we all know is essential, should very much be balanced with the human-being need for support and learnings in a safe way for all. This should not only be done by our regulator but also by the wider system of primary care that should regard every pharmacy as an essential link.

This will surely drive the right outcomes for the professionals involved and the local communities those pharmacies serve. And, of course, it would be better for the pharmacy profession as a whole.

 

 

Nick Kaye is a community pharmacist based in Newquay and chair of the National Pharmacy Association. These are his personal views.

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