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Winning hearts and minds in Brighton

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Winning hearts and minds in Brighton

LPC chairman and NPA board member Dilip Joshi was on the NPA’s award winning stand at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton at the conclusion of another eventful month

Sunday September 3
I attend a vaccinations and resuscitation training event at Bexley and see that 10 other people have also given up their Sunday to be here. Funding for such events is becoming scarce and this is only one of three in South London. Community pharmacists, unlike GP colleagues, have never benefited from paid protected learning time and, worse, it is likely that future commissioned services will require providers to pay for their training. I am pleased to see young pharmacists new to the service attending, and their enthusiasm is palpable. Although, I have provided a vaccination service for several years, it is interesting to attend such refresher meetings. This year, in London, we will provide flu vaccinations under the national and local schemes. Additionally, pneumonia and meningitis vaccines are available for eligible patients under the local scheme.

Tuesday September 5
At an LPC officers’ meeting this evening, we consider succession planning. The life of the present committee ends on 31 March and we start the election timetable in November. We explore the possibility of joining forces with adjacent LPCs and consider various models to achieve economies of scale while retaining the ability to service our members adequately. On the one hand, the NHS speaks of increased localisation, but, on the other, it seeks to achieve this through larger geographical coverage, with merged CCGs. We decide not to mirror NHS changes currently in vogue due to uncertainty of how long they might last. Some suggest a fullscale merger of LPCs but I am uncomfortable, as time to achieve this is short and I have concerns on proper representation in an enlarged area. I also think it unfair to impose structural change of such magnitude on a new committee. We decide that a model that combines administrative functions to make savings as a first step would be more acceptable, with representation carried out by elected members in committees as at present. In the event, we conclude that no change will take place in the life of present committees but we will set out our thinking for the new committee to consider beyond April next year.

Wednesday September 20
The LMC secretary attends the Lambeth Borough Prescribing Committee meeting today as we consider appeals from GPs who have not met their prescribing targets. All mention exceptional circumstances and it is hard not to be sympathetic when some have marginally missed targets – as few as two patients can skew numbers. I reflect on time spent on administrative and regulatory matters detracting from patient care in both our professions. Later, I am at a Lambeth Council meeting to discuss sexual health services. We learn chlamydiatesting kits handed out by pharmacies will not be processed beyond September as the council’s contract with the processing company runs out at the end of the month. Clearly embarrassed, commissioners admit they were not aware of this and, once again, ask us to pick up the pieces. There are a number of issues: firstly, the service level agreement (SLA) requires a 30-day notice to our contractors for any variation; secondly, kits held at pharmacies will need to be disposed of (what a waste); and, thirdly, people attempting to access the service will be disappointed. We are requested to get pharmacies to hand out cards with details of a screening service as an interim measure and are promised that pharmacy will feature prominently in a revised, ‘holistic’ sexual health service that will commence in April 2018. We leave on a positive (if not entirely optimistic) note, offering to help bridge communications between commissioner and our contractors.

Friday September 22
I attend an Asian Achievers Awards Dinner at Grosvenor House Hotel in London this evening and see many acquaintances I had not met in a while. It is an opportunity to compare pharmacy to other businesses. Judging by awards won, hospitality, catering and entertainment sectors appear to be thriving whilst healthcare barely gets a mention. More than 60% of nominees are women.

Sunday to Wednesday September 24
I am at the Labour Party conference in Brighton to fly community pharmacy’s flag through the NPA stand, where we carry out blood pressure tests. We are constantly busy and discuss blood pressure at cuff and heart-level, heart rhythm to indicate possible AF and an indicative measure of arterial stiffness and heart age. As a fun element, we have a large display with dials indicating heart age by type of visitor: parliamentarians, activists and others. We take the opportunity to speak to attendees about other services and encourage them to visit their local pharmacies. Several MPs attend plus Lord Prescott. I carry out a test on Julie Cooper, Shadow Health Minister with responsibility for community health. I attend a Royal College of General Practitioners fringe event and ask questions that result in a 10-minute discussion on community pharmacy; very encouraging for a GP event! The next day, I compere the NPA fringe event: ‘Relieving the pressure: pharmacy’s role in saving the NHS’. This is chaired by James Cusick, formerly political correspondent of The Independent. Julie Cooper’s husband was a community pharmacist and she is a panel member at both fringe events. Our stand is voted best at the conference, and comedian Eddie Izzard presents us with an award.

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