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Our time is our biggest strength...and weakness


Our time is our biggest strength...and weakness

Making a claim for Covid costs will feel very alien to many independents because we are used to knuckling down and just getting on with it, says Nick Kaye
The bouncy castle is inflated in the garden: it’s my younger son’s third birthday and it’s a sign that the world is getting back to normal. However, we are not quite there yet. Last weekend my wife’s NHS Covid-19 app pinged telling her to self-isolate, putting a stop to any party plans.

It is an odd time, both in the outside world and within the pharmacy bubble. It feels like we are in limbo. Much of the world is carrying on as normal, yet suddenly, the sharp end of the Covid pandemic can intrude, disrupting everything from party plans to school runs.

During the past few months in Cornwall this has been felt acutely. We had the ‘emmets’ back over the May Bank Holiday - emmets being the cheeky name the Cornish give to tourists. The word comes from the old Cornish word for ants! They jam up the roads up and make the towns feel super busy. We have also had the meeting of the G7 leaders and world’s press on our doorstep.

This certainly doesn’t feel like a country in lockdown and yet thousands of people in the past weeks, and all their immediate contacts, have had their plans put on hold because of a positive Covid test. We should be grateful that because of the vaccine programme, only small numbers of people are in hospital and few have passed away from coronavirus.

However, this phoney period won’t carry on forever, and in pharmacy it feels the same. Recently, we learned that the £370 million advance payment made last year will start to be recouped from October. That is a sure and unwelcome sign that the world is getting back to normal.

And yet the announcement that a settlement has been agreed that will allow us to reclaim our Covid related expenses is a sign that the world is still not completely back to normal. It does, however, at least feel like this is a fair recognition of our costs over the last 13 months.

The claim is going to be hard for independents like me to get our heads around for the simple reason that we can claim for our time. This is very alien and feels odd because we are used to just knuckling down and getting on with it.

But is this a sign that we are being valued for working 90 hours a week? It is certainly not normal, but if it is truly a recognition of that then I hope the PSNC negotiating team in England can put this milestone to good use and can get our paymaster to value our time again as we move into a more normal post-Covid life.

For too long we have accepted that long working hours is the norm. We should use this moment to say: ‘This is unreasonable!’

But I know that as community pharmacists we will do whatever needs to be done. I that means staying late to manage the books or dropping off that prescription on the way home to the person who really needs, then so be it.

But at what point do we say that the people who also need us in their lives are the three-year-olds at home having a birthday party and waiting for Daddy to fall over in the bouncy castle? As community pharmacists we care so much about our patients that we often put them first. It’s our biggest strength and our biggest weakness.

I hope you find the time to get that claim submitted on top of everything else, and that you realise your time is valuable and you are doing a better job than me in balancing work and bouncy castle time.

And as the world becomes more normal, we need to remember why we do this job and who we do it for.

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

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