Hard to judge, wasn’t it, when the managing director of a large chain of pharmacists recently suggested that the rest of primary care had disappeared during lockdown? Was this pharmacists deliberately putting the Boots into general practice? Or was it merely an unfortunate case of Boots in mouth?
After all, it is so easy to mis-speak. I could say, for example, that, from my perspective, the main function of community pharmacy is to flog placebos, leave me with surplus flu vaccines and tell patients to see their GP for antibiotics when they don’t really need them. But that might not be what I actually mean.
On the other hand, this incident, together with Pulse’s current ‘re-think primary care’ project, has got me wondering what, exactly, community pharmacy is for. And, to be honest, I’m struggling. The more I think about it, the more pharmacies seem to be an anomaly, providing a service that is incongruous or redundant.
So they dispense and deliver medication – OK, you could do that with a cupboard, a car and a grade C in maths. They manage minor illness – but most trivial ailments are self-limiting, don’t require any professional input at all and get better despite ‘remedies’ (cough mixtures, anyone?). They advise on over-the-counter medication – yet they’re not diagnosticians, so how can they rationally guide treatment? They provide advice and follow-up for long-term medication – as if GPs don’t have training in pharmacology and don’t do this already.
And so on and so forth. All this, of course, within that uncomfortable tension of pitching for scientific credibility while running a shop. No wonder they’re forever trying to redefine and elevate their role, which perhaps explains the increasing numbers working within general practice, where they can do something worthwhile.
And for the avoidance of doubt, yes, that’s in general practices that are open, and always have been. And for the avoidance of further doubt, yes – I am saying that, if you dreamed up primary care from scratch, certain facets really would disappear, and it wouldn’t be GPs.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/views/copperfield
PLEASE NOTE: WE HAVE IDENTIFIED A GLITCH IN THE SYSTEM THAT IS REMOVING COMMENTS AUTOMATICALLY. WE ARE WORKING ON FIXING THIS. APOLOGIES FOR THIS