Parting is such sweet sorrow
Dilip Joshi, former LPC chairman and NPA board member, bids a fond farewell to friends, colleagues and ICP readers.
MondayÂ March 5
I visit the Magic Circle this morning, followed by lunch at the Royal College of Physicians. The visit is arranged by a medic I have known for some time and I reflect on the historical association between magic and healing; in particular, the practice of alchemy. Alchemists mainly sought to turn lead into gold, believing metals such as lead were spiritually and physically immature forms of â€˜higherâ€™ metals.
Alchemy was based upon a mix of experimentation and magic, searching for a mythical substance called the philosopherâ€™s stone, which was supposed to possess many valuable attributes such as the power to heal, to prolong life, and to change base metals into precious metals.
The goal of seeking to change base metals into gold was not simply out of greed but to achieve the physical and spiritual wellbeing associated with gold (base metals were associated with evil and illness). Nor was alchemy practised solely by cranks: Isaac Newton wrote copious notes on the subject!
WednesdayÂ March 7
This is my last month in office as LPC chair and I visit the office with the dual purpose of tying up loose ends and taking the staff to lunch. Operating on a shoestring, we only have a CEO and an office administrator as full-time members and I am uncertain whether contractors fully appreciate the extent of work carried out by such a small team on their behalf. An efficient electronic filing system has been created with meeting reports and other resources to ensure effective succession planning.
TuesdayÂ March 13
I attend PSNC chief executive Sue Sharpeâ€™s farewell drinks. Many former LPC chairs and vice-chairs also attend and speeches are full of kind words and good wishes. It is an end of an era: Sue joined PSNC at a time when there was a laissez-faire attitude to cost of service provision and a greater emphasisÂ on purchase profit. It is fair to say the 2005 contract was a turning point with the concept of benefit-sharing from purchases becoming recognised for the first time.
I have seen at first hand, the challengesÂ of dealing with a monopoly employer and, having served for a dozen years, believe some of the criticism of PSNC has been undeserved. Nonetheless, few would argue with the suggestion that the present contract is notÂ in urgent need of revision. Margin reduction and dispensing at a loss are major concerns disproportionately affecting the viability of smaller, independent contractors. Sue has increased the professionalism of the PSNC team and worked tirelessly on behalf of pharmacy contractors.
WednesdayÂ March 21
I attend my final PSNC LPC chairs and CEOs conference today and see mostly familiar faces, some of whom are also moving on. Sue Sharpe addresses the conference and shares some of the difficulties faced by PSNC. The mood, while sympathetic, is not full of optimism. PSNC was sidelined when the cuts Â were announced but I am hopeful it will remain as the negotiating body and we can reverse the localisation agenda to avoid patchy and inconsistent services.Â
Monday and TuesdayÂ March 26-27
The final NPA Board meetings of this term take place over two days and we take stock of the Boardâ€™s achievements. We have championed the independentsâ€™ cause and campaigned vigorously against cuts as well as provided support for a variety of GPhC and other regulatory matters. There is, however, no mood for resting on our laurels as much work remains to be done. This is for the new Board to take forward.
ThursdayÂ March 29
I chair my last LPC meeting this evening. After nearly a quarter of a century on the committee and over a third of that time as chair, I believe it is time for me to step down and allow others to bring a fresh perspective.
For the first time we have a handover meeting in which I ask newly elected members to join the outgoing committee. I take the opportunity to summarise the successes of
the LPC and highlight future challenges. I express gratitude for the support given to
me by officers and members, particularly my CEO, Jayesh Patel, and am moved by the
kind words of colleagues. I sign off in the firm belief that we have the right culture and work ethic to continue to represent our constituents effectively and impartially.
It is an emotional evening for me and I close the meeting proud to have worked with excellent colleagues who have given me and our contractors unstinting support, made personal sacrifices and worked hard on behalf of community pharmacy owners in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham.
In keeping with several â€˜lastsâ€™ reported this month, this is my final column for Independent Community Pharmacist and I would like to take this opportunity to thank readers and the editors (Doug, Steve and Liz) over the past five years. I hope what I have written has been informative and thought-provoking.
As an independent contractor, I share your pains and gains, the frustrations and joys we experience as frontline healthcare providers and will try to remain optimistic in the face of the challenges to come. My grateful thanks for your support and the kind comments I have received over the years and best wishes for whatever the future brings!