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Are pharmacists about to shut up shop?

Are pharmacists about to shut up shop?

Dr Copperfield on pharmacists’ backlash against NHS England’s new campaign, which aims to redirect patients from GP practices to pharmacies for minor ailments

The news that there’s to be yet another drive to fob-off, sorry, that’s ‘care navigate’, patients to the pharmacy is rather more fascinating than you might suppose. Because a heard-it-all-before story actually contains several layers of startling new insight.

First, the response of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), which described the campaign as ‘irresponsible’, ‘deeply concerning’, ‘extremely unhelpful’ and ‘irritating’. Which I think means they don’t like it. And no wonder: the Government has previously demonstrated a willingness to fund this work, at least when referred via 111 or the GP, under the Community Pharmacy Consultation Scheme (CPCS). This revelation that NHSE has shown willing to cough up cash when patients cough up phlegm implies to PSNC it must be a pharmacy service of real value, so it should come with appropriate funding.

But it has also occurred to the Government that pharmacists used to do all this stuff for free as part of the day job – and that if they encourage patients to Go Directly To Pharmacist, then the pharmacists do not collect dosh. Which might seem fair enough, depending on your viewpoint – mine being that patients were distinctly unimpressed and unconvinced by pharmacy CPCS advice and so ended up back with me anyway, albeit via the 111, pharmacy, GP reception carousel. Which seemed an odd way to save the patient time and the NHS money.

The most profound insight, though, comes from the pharmacists themselves. I’m guessing the reason they used to be happy to dispense gratis, minor ailment advice, which ranged from well-meaning pseudoscience to downright quackery, was that it gave them an opportunity to flog stuff: cough mixtures, vitamins and copper bracelets all compensated for the time spent spouting quasi-medicine.

Perhaps this new resistance to more footfall indicates a welcome determination to resolve the age-old tension between being a credible health adviser and being a shopkeeper. On the other hand, maybe they’ve twigged that patients are more likely to spend their money on gas bills rather than health junk.

Dr Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of his blogs here



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Mr Marvellous 6 March, 2023 10:05 am

GPs being allowed to sell things to patients: Conflict of Interest.

Pharmacists being allowed to sell homeopathy to patients – no problem at all.