Why do we need four pharmacy visions in England?
Too many visions can make things unclear. The thought popped into my head as I listened to Northern Ireland’s chief pharmaceutical officer Cathy Harrison deliver a speech during this year’s Independent Pharmacy Awards at the House of Commons.
It was probably in her head too as she went about assessing where community pharmacy in the UK might be heading in years to come. “There’s a saying about buses,” she said. “You wait ages for one then two, three or even four turn up at once. Perhaps the same can be said today about strategies for community pharmacy .”
It was a reference to England which, she “noted with great interest,” has had “at least” four visions in the last year. Community Pharmacy England commissioned The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust to produce one with four broad themes – prevention of ill-health and support for well-being; clinical care for patients; ensuring people live well with medicines; an integrated primary care offer for communities.
The National Pharmacy Association’s prospectus Making Changes, Meeting Needs wants to make better use of community pharmacies by establishing pharmacists as “the go-to professionals for optimising the use of medicines” among other things.
The Company Chemists’ Association’s prospectus outlined urgent care, prevention, cardiovascular disease and improved health outcomes as its “key” themes, while The King’s Fund (again) were commissioned by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society to produce a 10-year vision for pharmacy in all care settings.
Four visions instead of one clear voice. Perhaps Harrison was being diplomatic when she said they “all make good reading and collectively present the case for making better use of community pharmacies.” Northern Ireland, she said pointedly, was taking a “different approach,” with the Department of Health and Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland working together to produce “strategic priorities for community pharmacy up to 2030.”
Harrison then delivered what one might interpret was a sharp dig to the solar plexus of England’s four-pronged vision. “We are striving for a statement that is both progressive and easy to communicate.”
I’ll end with a simple question: can you imagine general practice confronting the government with four separate visions?
Neil Trainis is the editor of Independent Community Pharmacist.