This is a campaign letter for the 2021 RPS national pharmacy board elections. The views expressed in this letter belong to the author. Find out more about the RPS elections.
Since deciding to stand for the RPS Welsh pharmacy board, I have been reflecting on how we continue to be an under-recognised profession and why. I feel there are two main issues, one to paraphrase Blackadder: “We don’t even let people know we have a trumpet, let alone blow it,” and the second that as a profession we are not united.
Neither are easily solved but I feel that our elected leaders should put aside feelings that they are being arrogant and blow the trumpet as hard as they can until we get everyone’s attention.
The second is even more difficult because our sectors are set up to compete with each other by the very nature of the funding and incentives that are in place.
People ten years younger than me may not pick up the reference to Frankie Goes to Hollywood in the title of this letter, but it feels to me we are often set against each other. The health boards incentivise reducing prescribing volume, GP pharmacists implementing those schemes actually reducing the bottom line of their community pharmacist colleagues. Switches to get prices below the drug tariff can often adversely affect community pharmacists who cannot always buy it in for that price. Community pharmacists striving to reduce waste are doing so altruistically as they are shooting themselves in the foot financially every time they do not dispense an item.
That we still have volume-based remuneration is unbelievable in my opinion. I concede that it is not easy to move away from it, but an NHS that manages to restructure every four years or so should really be able to manage it.
As always, communication is key. While time is short — GP pharmacists, visit your community pharmacist colleagues; community pharmacists, speak to the GP pharmacists, who can help if there are concerns or shortages. There is more that unites us than divides us, the safety of the patient being of utmost importance. If one pharmacist reflects and reaches out to a colleague after reading this I would consider it a job well done.
Elanor (Elly) Thomas, election candidate, Welsh pharmacy board (primary care sector), Royal Pharmaceutical Society