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Where are the Conservatives taking community pharmacy?


Where are the Conservatives taking community pharmacy?

Do the Conservatives believe that if it drives workers out of pharmacies, technological solutions can fill the gap? Peter Kelly thinks it does…


Most people believe in the nation state. Most people believe in having a government to tackle problems bigger than any one individual or specific community could possible tackle alone, such as a pandemic or global warming.

While everyone dislikes paying taxes, people buy into the idea that everyone should pay tax and in return the state should provide essential services such as health, education and housing.

These conclusions have been reached after centuries of struggle and confrontation. People also believe that those who personally benefit the most from operating within a robust state should pay the most tax. The Tory party believes in keeping taxes as low as possible and state provided services as minimal as possible.

Some may even believe in paying no tax. Nadhim Zahawi was recently sacked as Tory party chairman for “carelessly not deliberately” forgetting to pay millions in tax. Some believe that the state should not provide services - Sajid Javid recently suggested that patients should pay for GP and A&E visits.

However, the current mess started with David Cameron and George Osborne and the mantra ‘let’s do more with less’. The narrative was simple: Labour had the destroyed the country’s finances after being in government at a time of global financial meltdown and only the Tories could be trusted to sort out the mess. They would do this by reducing the deficit through cutting services and asking everyone to do more with less.

This sacrifice would lead to a stronger economy in the future and better days ahead. Most reasonable-minded people are willing to suffer today for a better tomorrow, particularly if it means a better future for their children.

As the years went by the narrative from Cameron started to change. Originally, he was cutting services and pay to people in the receipt of payment from the government out of necessity and not “some ideological zeal”.

But then he started to say the government had shown that better services can be delivered with lower spending and that the government needed to forge a “leaner more efficient state” on a permanent basis. And then we had the major distractions of Brexit and Covid, but throughout the Tory game plan of constantly paying less for more continued.

Now we have a situation where some pharmacies say they are operating at a loss and may have to close. Staff morale is low as year after year wages have failed to keep pace with inflation and therefore are effectively being cut in real terms. It is hard to convince people that you value their work when you keep cutting their pay.

It is not surprising that the Tory party does not value workers. In Britannia Unchained - Global Growth and Prosperity, a pamphlet co-written by Priti Patel, Kwasi Kwarteng, Liz Truss and Dominic Raab, British workers are described as “the worst idlers in the world”. Who would want to go the extra mile for leaders who perceive you in this way?

The Tory party believes in permanent austerity for workers and not just in times of necessity. Some may feel that constantly demanding more for less will put people off and lead to staff shortages and maybe even pharmacy closures.

That is exactly what it is doing but I do not expect anyone in Tory leadership to be worried about this because their lack of belief in workers is inversely proportional to their over-belief in technology.

I could be wrong, but I think the Tories believe that if they drive workers out of pharmacy, technological solutions will fill the gap. Remember this is a party that told the world the border that separates the Republic of Ireland from the six counties of Northern Ireland was a not an issue due to modern technologies.

The Tory party promised the Irish, American and EU governments that there would be no hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. They promised the leave voters in the UK that there would be a border between the UK and the EU.

That meant that the only logical conclusion was a border down the Irish Sea between the island of Ireland and the rest of the UK. But then Boris promised the Unionists in Northern Ireland that there would be no border in the Irish Sea. So how was this problem to be solved, according to the Tories? It would be solved by modern technology.

The only problem was the technology did not exist anywhere in the known universe. And the experts so loathed by Michael Gove and Co said that such technology was unlikely to ever exist.

All this tells me the Tories will think nothing of driving community pharmacy into the ground in the over-optimistic belief or some ideological zeal that modern technology - which may or may not be exist - will solve the problem.


Peter Kelly is a community pharmacist based in London and stand-up comedian.

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