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Insight: Will the new chief pharmacist recognise our worth?


Insight: Will the new chief pharmacist recognise our worth?

By Alexander Humphries*

l’ve had more people shout at me over lateral flow tests than anything else in the entire pandemic. There is plenty for our new chief pharmacist to sort out...

I lost the will to live at some point in December. I can’t pinpoint an exact moment, as it was all equally terrible. From the entitled baby-boomers who didn’t think they should be required to get a code, to the people with codes who thought that we should somehow know that they were coming. Just dreadful, the whole of it.

My team have been absolute superstars throughout the pandemic and in December in particular, with one member of staff on long-term sick leave and others being pulled into isolation by test and trace.

My staff have been coming in on their days off, working longer or going off to do some deliveries after the driver was pinged.

Not holding my breath

The Covid costs process ran from March ’20 to March ’21, and we are now nearly a year further on with massive increases in our costs, locums in particular (£70 an hour was the highest we’ve had to go so far).

We have to find a way of getting some of these legitimate expenses reimbursed, but I won’t hold my breath for a second round of Covid reimbursement.

With some of the behaviour that I have witnessed from the public over the past few weeks, it is easy to see why community pharmacy teams feel so demoralised.

With inflation predicted to hit 6-7 per cent, we are all going to lose good people in this coming year as there is little or no chance of new money coming to fund a much needed and deserved pay rise.


I’m afraid the news that we have a new chief pharmaceutical officer in England left me rather underwhelmed. David Webb may be the best and most qualified person for the job, but he continues the unbroken line of hospital pharmacists to hold the position.

I know nearly every community pharmacist is thinking that he can’t be as bad as the last guy, but there is very little information about him at this stage.

You might say that this is a good thing, but it says (to me, anyway) that he has perhaps led a slightly insular secondary care and academic career. I could be wrong.

He seems to have kept a fairly low profile on social media, which makes me question how good a communicator he is and whether he has the first clue of what life on the frontline in a community pharmacy is like. I will give him a chance – of course – but the basic ingredients don’t fill me with excitement, if I’m honest.

Maybe I am being unfair because you don’t become chief pharmacist at Guy’s & St Thomas’ without having something about you, but will he fight, say, the ludicrous NHS bureaucracy which landed us with 16-digit codes for lateral flow tests that have to be manually entered by pharmacy teams?

The Pharmacy Collect Service is not the only complete dog’s breakfast of a service in a national contractual framework that is in urgent need of overhaul.

The patient journey with CPCS is laughable and is simply not being used, while the claims process for DMS probably takes longer than it does to provide the service itself.

We have to ask ourselves why these services become over-engineered. Is it to justify a fee or because NHS England doesn’t trust us? I don’t know, but we can’t carry on like this.

This flu season has been the most successful on record with more than 4.7 million vaccinations given by pharmacies and over 17 million Covid jabs as well.

These are meaningful numbers and the sort of contributions that will help the NHS to deliver on its targets – but we’ve got many more misses than hits when it comes to services.

Both we and the NHS need to take a look at why that is. If Mr Webb is worth his salt, he will surround himself with good people, listen, learn and help. Hopefully quickly.

*Alexander Humphries is the pen name of a practising community pharmacist. The views in this article are not necessarily those of Pharmacy Magazine. What should David Webb address first in his in-tray? Email

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