Ensuring our profession’s message is heard above the cacophony of national pre-general election caterwauling is going to be a huge task, especially when we already find it hard to be commissioned for services. Nevertheless, despite the election frenzy and the media’s focus on the wiff-waff of political squabbles, negativity, pointless arguments and counter arguments between the political parties, we must grasp this opportunity to bring pharmacy issues to the fore.
So I suggest three issues that the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) must push to budding politicians and the public, which will be extremely relevant to our every working practice.
Firstly, we need to be granted read-and-write access to patient records. This is not the panacea but, with all things considered, if we are to provide greater and better levels of care — such as managing long-term conditions, providing unscheduled care, prescribing, public health services or being the first point of contact in managing common ailments — the limited access to records that are currently on offer will simply not be sufficient.
Secondly, we need to have commissioners think “pharmacy first” and have other professions encourage patients to use us as the first port of call. Pharmacists can improve access to healthcare, serve patients, save money, save lives and clear the backlogs in surgeries and accident and emergency departments. Training more GPs and spending money the NHS has not got while pharmacists’ potential is untapped is ludicrous. Pharmacy teams should be seen as essential and at the forefront of common ailment services, disease prevention and early detection and treatment of illnesses in the community.
Finally, we need an overhaul of our community pharmacy contract. Only then will employees be empowered, we will not be in competition with GPs, more services will be nationally commissioned and we will diminish the gaping interface between secondary and primary care.
Now more than ever, there is no better time for the prospective parliamentary candidates currently partaking in an auction of promises and campaigning in a bidding war for our votes to be in listening mode. If elected, I will ensure the RPS lobbies on these proposals, leads on their implementation and makes the politicians accountable for any promises.
English Pharmacy Board
Royal Pharmaceutical Society