By Pharmacy Magazine editor, Richard Thomas.

Autumn has descended suddenly but everywhere you look the temperature’s rising.

Doctors have fired off their annual salvo at pharmacists over flu jabs, Alliance Healthcare has been feeling the heat over its deliveries meltdown (since resolved) and everyone is hot under the collar about what the Government’s rebalancing board may – or may not – be considering about supervision.

 

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By Pharmacy Magazine editor, Richard Thomas.

The row over the cost of EHC from pharmacies – and the overwrought tone of much of the ensuing media coverage – raises serious questions about the perceived value of pharmacists’ professional input and how this should best be remunerated.

Clearly, price can be a barrier to medicines access and there is an onus on all pharmacies to ensure that EHC is affordable. But is the cost of EHC, for those who have to pay, unjustifiably high? The British Pregnancy Advisory Service and Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare certainly think so. Presumably Superdrug and Tesco now agree with them.

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By PM editor, Richard Thomas.

Some pharmacists may have been labouring under the misapprehension that the main task of the Government’s rebalancing board was to decriminalise dispensing errors (where the progress made so far has been precisely diddly-squat). So these pharmacists may therefore have been surprised by Mike Hewitson and Ben Merriman’s open letter to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, signed by nearly 500 colleagues.

The two pharmacists wrote to the Society calling on RPS presidency candidates to come out against plans they say are being considered by the rebalancing board to legally allow technicians to supervise pharmacies. The letter pulled no punches, saying it would be a “betrayal” if the RPS did not robustly oppose such a move.

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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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