Is the chief pharmaceutical officer of England serving patients and the profession well?

Upon his appointment in 2005, the chief pharmaceutical officer for England Keith Ridge stated that: “Over the past few years, patients have demanded change to how health services are delivered, including pharmacy. The Government and the pharmacy profession have listened and are responding, putting pharmacy practitioners right at the front line of patient care. Prescribing of medicines by pharmacists and the new community pharmacy contract will increase access to healthcare. I intend to help make sure patients benefit from these and other initiatives.” (
The Pharmaceutical Journal online, 3 December 2005

Since taking up his role in March 2006, does Ridge think he has been successful in making sure patients are benefiting from his work? Does he think that he has represented the entire profession, from those in academia and industry to those in hospitals, general practices and community pharmacies? Does he have examples as to how he has furthered each of these sectors?

How does he feel that the government’s proposal to reduce pharmacy funding, and reduce the community pharmacy network by up to 3,000 pharmacies, will “[put] pharmacy practitioners right at the front line of patient care” and “increase access to healthcare” given that the aim seems to be to move toward centralised dispensing (aka “Amazonisation”) and removal of healthcare professionals from the very places they are needed? Or is he still of the belief that “there are too many community pharmacies” as stated in 2013 (
Chemists & Druggist, 7 November 2013

Does he think community pharmacy is an appropriate place for a pharmacist independent prescriber to be practising their skills, e.g. in management of long-term condition or treatments of minor ailments? Is he in agreement with the All-Party Pharmacy Group that all pharmacists should be able to train to become prescribers by 2022 (
The Pharmaceutical Journal online, 27 April 2017
)? If he has any doubts, I would be delighted to introduce him to any of the countless numbers of patients who have avoided a long wait to see their GP or trip to accident and emergency in the NHS Cumbria service running for over two years now.

Ben Merriman

Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria

NHS England has declined to respond to the letter — Editor.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, June, Vol 298, No 7902;298(7902):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20202812

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