The latest catch-all cliche for primary care, thankfully taking over from ‘GPs are ideally placed to…’ is, ‘Pharmacists are highly trained professionals who are greatly valued by patients’.
And, this week, pharmacists are highly trained professionals who are greatly valued by patients because, according to Government plans, they will soon be able to provide statins OTC, in doses which are high and effective rather than, as at present, homeopathic and pointless.
Cue lots of GP teeth-gnashing about pharmacists not being properly trained for this, about the risks of inadvertent reactions with other drugs, about the lack of NICE recommended LFT monitoring, yada yada. All of which may actually just reflect the tension that resides in most GPs about, on one hand, wanting to reduce our workload, while, on the other, not wanting to appear dispensable.
I like to think I give balanced information about the pros and cons of statins – especially when the topic is as contentious as their value in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease
But this isn’t just reflex GP protectionism: we do have an important role here. If you don’t believe me, consider the kind of statin-based interactions different professionals might have with patients.
As a GP, I like to think I give balanced information about the pros and cons of statins – especially when the topic is as contentious as their value in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease – with me providing Numbers Needed to Treat, Numbers Needed to Harm and having no vested interest in the outcome.
Whereas, as a pharmacist – and I admit I’m guessing a bit here, never having been one – I suspect my approach might be less about guiding patients towards an informed choice and more about guiding them towards the checkout with as much high-dose statin as I can cram into their basket/trolley, given that I gave certain pecuniary and target-given pressures to consider.
Yes, community pharmacists may be highly trained professionals who are greatly valued by patients. But I feel that I am ideally placed to point out that they are shopkeepers, too.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/views/copperfield or follow him on Twitter @doccopperfield