Lack of transparency with rebalancing board doing profession a disservice

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 getting hot under the collar about what the Government’s rebalancing board may – or may not – be considering about supervision.

Opinions on the latter quickly polarised. The DH is either:

a. intent on deprofessionalising pharmacists, driving cost out of the system and letting pharmacy technicians storm the barricades, or

b. wrestling with the complex task of professional regulatory reform such that full use can be made of the skills of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, as per the board’s terms of reference.

So what to make of it all? It is difficult to draw any firm conclusions from leaked reports, inevitably partial in nature and lacking context, but the proposals supposedly muted by the rebalancing board working group seem to stop short of suggesting technician-supervised pharmacies outright. Let us hope so. As I wrote in July, community pharmacies not under the control of pharmacists would be the gravest betrayal of the public interest. There are clearly grounds for concern here.

The rebalancing board hasn’t helped itself, either. Its long deliberations have lacked any semblance of openness or transparency. Maybe more will be revealed at the Pharmacy Show in October, where a panel discussion featuring members of the board is scheduled for the Keynote Theatre, sponsored by Pharmacy Magazine. It promises to be a lively affair.

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