By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine.

If there were any small doubts remaining about what the high-ups in Government really think of community pharmacy, they were surely dispelled by revelations in the High Court last month, whatever the final ruling in the judicial reviews.

Inefficient, over-subsidised sandwich sellers seems to cover it – a sentiment so misleading, ill-informed and wide of the mark it seems wrong to dignify it with a comment. However, it is the clearest sign yet that, even with the benefit of enormous public support, pharmacy in England is still failing to gain the policy high ground where it matters.

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By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine.

The lobbying power of the medical profession is often put down to its unity. Doctors all seem to pull in the same direction. Actually, this is largely a myth. Behind closed doors medics fight like ferrets in a sack. What they are good at, however, is managing their differences and presenting a united front. If only pharmacy could do the same.

The NPA’s decision to pull out of Pharmacy Voice, which will in all likelihood spell the end of the latter, came as a blow to those who believe the sector can only benefit from having a unified voice and consistent messaging in its relations with policymakers and NHS.

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By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine.

So the gloves are off. As contractors in England wrestle with how to implement a year’s worth of cuts in four months with just weeks’ notice, the NPA launched legal action to challenge the Department of Health’s imposed funding settlement.

Getting the lawyers involved is never a course of action to be taken lightly, not least because dragging the Government to court is hardly likely to endear you to representatives with whom you’ll eventually have to sit with around the negotiating table again. However, frankly, the sector was left with no choice – a line had to be drawn.

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By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine.

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. No wonder the profession is less than enamoured with new pharmacy minister David Mowat.

He started by snubbing the RPS by not attending its annual conference in person, choosing instead to send a pre-recorded video message, in which he announced the delay of the pharmacy funding cuts.

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By Richard Thomas, Pharmacy Magazine editor.

The NHS is teetering on the brink.

In the last month alone there have been lurid headlines about clinical commissioning groups suspending all but the most urgent treatments for patients, restrictions on the use of statins, increasing limits on surgery for cataracts and hip and knee operations, A&E departments under threat of closure… the list goes on.

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By Richard Thomas, Pharmacy Magazine editor.

There is an argument that the shock result in the EU referendum was not caused by immigration fears but by a deep sense of grievance on the part of large tracts of the population. These people feel socially and economically marginalised, ignored by politicians of all persuasions.

In other words, it was a protest vote on a gigantic scale and a stark reflection of the inequalities and divisions that are so rife in modern UK society.

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By Richard Thomas, Pharmacy Magazine editor.

The Government’s unexpected U-turn over hub and spoke – at least for the moment – has been hailed as a long overdue shift in position in response to convincing evidence, rational argument and massive public support. However, any hint of “I told you so” on the pharmacy side would be gravely misplaced.

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By Richard Thomas, Pharmacy Magazine editor.

The price of pharmacy’s higher profile these days is greater scrutiny from the media. What the sector absolutely does not need now, as it mounts an increasingly effective campaign to muster public support over the clear and present threat to the network, are banner headlines in The Guardian about Boots staff under pressure to “milk the NHS for cash” with their MURs.

Whatever the veracity or otherwise of the story – and it is important to stress that Boots has always insisted that MURs should never be undertaken inappropriately by its pharmacists – the company has struggled to shake off a reputation of having a target-driven culture when it comes to its professional services. Stories like this clearly don’t help.

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By Richard Thomas, Pharmacy Magazine editor.

The NPA accuses Asda of “retail anarchy”, contractors say they are dissatisfied with remuneration and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society calls on pharmacists to “seize and shape the future”. How little in pharmacy seems to have changed. These were the lead news stories in the very first edition of Pharmacy Magazine back in late 1995. Reading them in light of recent events, they have a very familiar ring, don’t they?

Yet, of course, in reality much has changed in pharmacy, health and therapeutics over the past 21 years and we reflect on some of the most significant developments in this special 21st anniversary issue.

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By Richard Thomas, Pharmacy Magazine editor.

One of the consequences of the funding cut – 6 per cent now, probably more to come – is that it might cause pharmacies to refocus on the OTC side of their businesses in order to maximise much needed revenues. Most pharmacies have an approximately 90:10 split between their NHS and OTC turnover. Might this now change?

However, if the sector is to make a concerted effort to ‘own’ the self-care and wellness agenda, pharmacy teams will have to do a better job in terms of improving the quality and consistency of advice given when OTC medicines are sold. The sector has a mixed record here, if the various Which? reports of recent years are any indication.

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