Community pharmacy needs to up its game if it is to get what it deserves, says Peter Kelly...
The NHS, politicians and the public do not fully understand the full extent of what we do. They do not fully appreciate all the advice and support we provide to the communities we serve.
We need to document all the beneficial interactions we have with the public and present it to the NHS. Then people will realise we are being undervalued and they will pay us fairly.
Does anyone really believe this strategy will ever work? Call me politically naïve but this strategy seems to be hopelessly unrealistic. It also seems to be the only negotiating strategy we have been using for the last decade.
Again, I am not fully informed but has this approach ever worked? Such an approach assumes we live in a fair and equitable society. We don’t.
If government treated people by their worth, nurses would be much better paid. Everyone knows their jobs are tough and difficult. Nurses were the ‘heroes’ of the pandemic and they have been offered a pathetic 1 per cent pay rise.
In 2008, bankers crashed the world’s economy through greed, stupidity and immoral practices like subprime mortgage lending, bundling and reselling, and what they did get? They got a blank cheque bailout.
Government does not give people what they are worth, it gives people what it can get away with. Government can get away with shafting the nurses because they have no power.
Governments could not shaft the bankers. The bankers told the politicians they had no option but to bail them out as the alternative would be much worse. The bankers had the better hand, they had power. They got an extremely fair deal not because they proved their worth but because they had power.
Billionaires also get an extremely fair deal from government. They do not really pay taxes. Warren Buffett famously stated he pays less tax than his secretary. Why do billionaires get away with paying so little tax relative to everyone else? Is it because the politicians believe they are worth it, or is it because they have power?
In an ideal, fair world the media is supposed to hold the politicians to account on behalf of the people. In reality, most large media organisations hold politicians to account on behalf of their owners and their owners’ class, ie the billionaire class. Politics is a game of survival, and politicians walk the path of least resistance.
I grew up surround by politicians and I found most of them to be decent people. Most politicians would love to live in a fairer society that forces billionaires to pay their fair share, and most would love to hold the corporations that are destroying the planet to account and do much more to tackle climate change.
They say this privately but publicly they tread carefully. The easiest way to torpedo your career as a politician is to talk unguardedly. You will get ripped to pieces in the media and have your reputation shredded in the court of public opinion.
If pharmacists want a better deal, we need to get over this misguided obsession with proving our worth and focus on ways to increase our power and influence.
Humans are all to a certain degree innately selfish. Very few people can resist the temptation to underpay for goods and services, and when they are in a position of power that enables them to underpay, they will. That is just who we are.
Now, some people are saying pharmacists should go on strike. I do not agree with this. That to me is the nuclear option and nuclear weapons are not all they are cracked up to be.
North Korea has nuclear weapons but it does not get a good deal from the international community. The Republic of Ireland barely has an army but the country has much more power and influence within the international community than North Korea. In the modern world smart diplomacy and subtle influence can prove to be much more powerful than brute force.
We need to box clever. The profession needs a much more comprehensive social media strategy. We need to develop a media infrastructure that holds the politicians to account on our own terms. We cannot depend on other media organisations.
There are plenty of good media personalities within the profession with big enough followings to get things started. These personalities need to be identified, supported and elevated. If we could increase our visibility in the overcrowded social media landscape and get the profession in a position of influence within the court of public opinion, we could get a better deal.
If the profession had a degree of public influence that could hurt politicians at the ballot box, then we could get a better deal. Then we would have something we currently do not have: power.
In life you get a good deal when you have power, not when you deserve it.
Peter Kelly is a community pharmacist and occasional stand-up comedian based in London.