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.

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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.

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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

 

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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.

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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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