I recently attended the ‘Quality for patients: pharmacy practice now and in the future’ conference on 22 March 2017, hosted by NHS England. I was looking forward to a positive, constructive day celebrating and showcasing all that is best among our profession, but I came away appalled by the attitude of the chief pharmaceutical officer for England, Keith Ridge.
During his 20-minute presentation he praised, one-by-one, every sector of pharmacy for its clinical excellence barring any mention whatsoever of community pharmacy. He continued in the same vein on the crucial subject of antimicrobial resistance: again community pharmacy was conspicuous by its absence. But, at long last, community pharmacy did feature: he reminded us that only four community pharmacies were deemed “excellent” by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).
Such distortion of facts might come as no surprise given the current political climate but surely we can expect better than that from the head of our profession? Although it is true that only four pharmacies were found to be “excellent”, the fact is that the GPhC had not defined “excellence” in its standards. Quite simply, the demarcation “excellent” was not achievable; indeed, almost every pharmacy was merely “satisfactory”.
But this is not the first time Ridge has failed to give the full clear picture to make a point. Let us not forget that, when addressing the All-Party Pharmacy Group (APPG), he overstated the rate of dispensing errors made in community pharmacy in an attempt to bolster his argument for automated dispensing (
Pharmaceutical Journal 2016;296:263). Albeit, he eventually half-apologised for misleading the APPG with this “inadvertent” error.
The GPhC has gone out of its way to assure us that there is no intention to publish the results of its community pharmacy inspection scheme anytime soon precisely because it is still in its early testing phase. Yet no less a figure than the chief pharmaceutical officer for England chooses to make such inaccurate and morale-deflating statements in a further attempt to undermine community pharmacy. Can anyone imagine the chief medical officer doing the same to GPs?
Ridge must finally be held to account. I perceive this as professional (sector-based) prejudice and it must be challenged.
NHS England has declined to comment on the letter. — EDITOR