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Light on detail, wide in scope – Long Term Plan a threat or an opportunity?

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine There is much in the NHS Long Term Plan that is encouraging. Plenty of mentions of pharmacists, albeit mostly of the ‘clinical’ kind – of which more later. However, community pharmacists are emphasised as key players in urgent care and prevention and there is the usual commitment to make greater use of their skills and opportunities to engage patients.

More tales of Yuletide woe but let's raise a glass to pharmacy

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine. Christmas and the New Year is traditionally a time of hope and renewal, but, as the prescriptions pile up, it is hard for pharmacists to feel any sense of optimism. We await the Government’s long-term plan for the NHS, but in the meantime the funding cuts are really taking their toll in the form of squeezed cashflow, job losses, reduced services, shelved investments and poor morale.  

Hancock makes prevention his mantra – but have we been here before?

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine The health secretary has thrown his weight behind the modèle français for community pharmacy and made ill health prevention his driving ambition. This isn't the first time the Government has spoken of the need to focus on prevention rather than cure. Will things be different this time around?

Pharmacists and patients have been let down by flu jab shambles

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine Those curmudgeons who harp on about pharmacists’ supposed inability to adapt or deliver at scale should be pointed to the national flu vaccination service. In just three seasons, community pharmacies have become the preferred choice for many wanting a jab, both private and NHS. Last year pharmacists carried out 1.3 million vaccinations, no appointment necessary, with patients raving about the convenience and accessibility on offer. Researchers proved it was cost-effective, the fee was increased, the service specification widened – what could possibly go wrong?

Rebalancing board proposals should be considered calmly

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine The consultation on clarifying the legal obligations of responsible pharmacists and superintendent pharmacists, which closed earlier this month, prompted some predictable caterwauling and finger pointing on social media. Whether the work of the rebalancing board is a stalking horse for remote supervision or a genuine attempt to come up with a regulatory and legislative framework to underpin modern pharmacy practice remains to be seen.

NAO investigation and RPS report on mental health – some reflections

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine. This month saw the publication of two major reports, polar opposites in terms of scope and purpose, yet each with potentially significant implications for the sector. The National Audit Office investigation into last year’s unprecedented hike in generics prices runs to 28 pages and contains a wealth of detail and market analysis – but little in the way of meaningful explanation.

Are our pharmacy bodies still fit for purpose?

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine. In these difficult times for the sector, our representative bodies should be firing on all cylinders as never before. Yet are they? Community pharmacy continues to have little meaningful impact on policy in the corridors of power despite what Sandra Gidley says in a recent interview in Pharmacy Magazine. The fact there are no community pharmacy representatives on Jeremy Hunt’s working group on medication safety is just the latest example of this, while the gap between the profession’s leaders and pharmacists at the coalface seems wider than ever.

Election fever and equality issues for the NPA

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine. It’s election time. The NPA has a new board – more on that later – and voting in the RPS English, Welsh and Scottish Pharmacy Board elections will open on April 30. Twitter is alive with election chat. Candidates’ views are scrutinised and challenged like never before, opinions exchanged, arguments fought out. It’s li  

Workload pressures are a sector-wide issue and need to be addressed

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine. I spent an hour recently in a dispensary waiting to interview the pharmacist. It was mayhem. That is by no means being derogatory to the highly organised pharmacist, who was on top of her game, or her excellent (and sufficient in numbers) support staff. It was simply the sheer number of demands she was juggling as the tumult raged around her. It was humbling and rather scary.

Lack of transparency with rebalancing board doing profession a disservice

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.  

EHC row: value and price are not the same thing

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.

Technicians supervising pharmacies? Bad idea

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.

Sector losing policy battle as CPhO faces mounting criticism

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.

NPA decision to leave PV leaves pharmacy divided

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.

So the gloves are off

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.

Confusing and conflicting signals from DH

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.

Saturday reflections: Where now for self-care?

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.

Reflections on Brexit and health inequalities

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.

Will the DH have its pound of flesh anyway?

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.

Higher profile equals greater scrutiny

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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