I have recently reviewed ‘Pharmacy: a report to the Nuffield Foundation’, which was published by the Nuffield Foundation in 1986. Among others, its Committee of Inquiry included the economist Maurice Peston, now Lord Peston.
It strikes me that government policy for community pharmacy has changed little over the intervening period. Kenneth Clarke, as health minister during the early 1980s, was quoted as saying that “pharmacists had a range of expertise of which the current system did not make full use, and that he was sympathetic to the view that pharmacists could take on a wider role with greater responsibility”. The report also goes on to describe the government’s desire “to keep the costs of the NHS down” and the increasing burden of a greater proportion of elderly people in society. At that time, the challenges facing community pharmacy included medicines safety, growth in dispensing, increased use of technology, pharmacy education and collaboration with other healthcare professionals (particular GPs). The main theme of the report is that community pharmacists should be given a more clinical role.
While some may be disappointed by a perceived lack of progress, we have moved on significantly from the time of this report. Community pharmacy has coped admirably with the further increase in prescription volume, and has built a range of clinical and patient-focused services that complement the safe and highly efficient supply of medicines.
Clearly, government health priorities remain similar, which supports the notion of an evolutionary development of our profession. However, more can be done through our excellent network of community pharmacies with the right support from the government.