Five months after the publication of the Community Pharmacy Forward View (CPFV), I continue to be frustrated at the lack of government response to our sector’s ideas and suggestions of how community pharmacy can help alleviate some of the stress on the NHS. We have an opportunity to shape our future role as an important element of the frontline health service but it appears our proposals are falling on deaf ears.
It is irritating that the profession is given so little respect and I wonder whether this has anything to do with the fact that we are viewed more as retailers rather than healthcare professionals. Let me remind the government that it is our entrepreneurial skills that enable community pharmacy to thrive against the odds of reduced funding, increased costs, business rate increases and minimum wage hikes. Community pharmacy is, after all, the most successful public–private partnership there is.
There are many who seem to want to concentrate on the differences between independent and multiple pharmacies. As the leader of a company that supplies all independent pharmacies, as well as its own large retail network, I speak to pharmacists and their teams on both sides of the divide every day. And I therefore know absolutely that there is more that unites us than divides us as community pharmacies. We all contribute to our local economies, we are all healthcare professionals, we want the best for our patients and we all provide employment. And our patients value the service we provide. I risk repeating myself when I say there is an untapped genius within pharmacists that urgently needs to be unleashed.
With several decades’ experience in business there is one thing that is clear to me: collaboration is the key to success. Despite recent divisions in sector representation, we have achieved consensus with CPFV. It is the glue that cannot be denied. We must focus on the goals we have all signed up to.
Visiting the GP is not always the most appropriate first point of contact and other community health specialists can play an important role in tackling public health challenges, including smoking and obesity. We must identify where collaborative work can take place to deliver better care for patients and to tackle health inequalities, but we cannot do it in isolation and we cannot do it without government backing.
The government needs to take definitive action now and properly acknowledge the value of pharmacy. There is an army of pharmacy professionals waiting, prepared and ready to heed the call to action.