Onlooker hopes for a Hammond u-turn

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Onlooker hopes for a Hammond u-turn

I can only describe the letter that Philip Hammond sent to the Prime Minister backing the pharmacy cuts as profoundly shocking. He talks about how much it costs to get medicines into the hands of patients as if this process were a simple business transaction, with no acknowledgement of the responsibilities involved and the complex clinical, professional and regulatory environment in which such transactions take place. He also talks about following trends in other retail markets by getting away from the traditional bricks and mortar model. As a coldly calculating and unfeeling approach it takes the biscuit. Hammond is showing no more sensitivity in his attitudes towards community pharmacy than he has been showing to the self-employed. Let us hope we see another U-turn.

INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM AGAIN
So, there could be another referendum on Scottish independence. We all have views on this and I won’t bore you with mine. I just hope that we hear a bit more from the various pharmacy bodies this time. There are big pharmaceutical issues and we heard precious little about them last time round. Just suppose an independent Scotland did end up in the EU while the rest of Britain was outside. What would happen to Scottish pharmacy graduates? Would they seamlessly be able to work across the border? Would the Royal Pharmaceutical Society split in two? What would become of the General Pharmaceutical Council? The various bodies might not want to appear to be taking sides, but I don’t think they have a choice.

A MATTER OF CONSCIENCE
The issue of whether a pharmacist’s personal beliefs should get in the way of someone receiving services that they could reasonably expect to receive – and where those services are available from a pharmacist with different beliefs – is a diffi cult one. Take the situation of a woman who unwisely has had unprotected intercourse and goes to a pharmacy for EHC only to be turned away. Say the need is urgent and there is no equivalent service nearby. Why should a professional’s religious beliefs stand in her way? Clearly, the General Pharmaceutical Council now seems to believe that they should not. It is consulting on new standards under which pharmacy professionals would not be able to refuse services based on their religion, personal values or beliefs and that referral to another pharmacist would not be an option. Consultation fi nished in March and the GPhC was, at the time of going to press, considering the results. New standards are due on 1 May. This is a diffi cult area. With a professional code that requires the needs of the patient to be given prime consideration, it seems obvious that the beliefs of the professional should take second place. It may be that problems can be avoided by pharmacists who do not want to be involved in such services as EHC not taking employment in locations where they might have to refuse them. But that will not always prevent problems. There could be trouble ahead if standards are revised along the lines that the GPhC is proposing and a person refused a service makes a formal complaint.

GUILDFORD RECALLED
There have been reports recently about the authorities at Guildford Cathedral wanting to develop the cathedral’s surrounds to provide an income to contribute to the building’s upkeep. This led people to recall how they had made contributions of various sorts towards construction of the building, which was consecrated in 1961. Among the benefactors were members of the Pharmaceutical Society (not Royal then), who paid for the Pharmacists Window. The Guildford branch of the Society played a pivotal role in raising the money. Sadly, the branch was lost, as much else, when the Society was restructured following the removal of its regulatory role.

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