I’M a frontline pharmacist, just like you.
Every day I open the doors, and wonder what will happen in the next 8 hours, because anything can and frequently does. Most of my day is spent talking to patients and customers – that’s what gives pharmacy such a wonderful variety. Yes it’s got its moments, and I could do without ringing the surgery 20 times a day, but what profession hasn’t?
In fact, what job hasn’t got annoying features, but it is only when good people spend their time and energy trying to make a positive difference that change is achieved. Forgive me the pretentious Gandhi quote: “you have to be the change that you want to see in the world”. If you want something to be different, you can either spend energy negatively by moaning about it, or you can do something about it.
Like many of you, when the Government dropped its bombshell in December last year, I felt it was a kick in the teeth at the worst time of the year; not because of the money (although that is sickening), but because the jumble of conflicting ideas showed a terrifying lack of understanding about what we actually do. While there are some warm (but empty) words in the letter which talk about a clinically focussed contract, call me cynical, but I’ve seen enough warm words and empty hands to last my entire career. I have no confidence that the politicians or civil servants can deliver.
The last four months have been a whirlwind of meetings, interviews and phone-calls. I know that the vast majority of people in leadership positions throughout pharmacy feel exhausted, but we are in uncharted waters, so there is no time to stop and take a break. Whatever the outcome of the consultation, pharmacy will never be the same again – we need fewer organisations competing for air-time, but that is for another day.
Today, I want to talk about the campaign – Support Your Local Pharmacies (#lovemypharmacy for tweeters). This is the opportunity, for every pharmacist, pharmacy technician, dispenser and counter assistant to make a difference. Nearly every pharmacy in England will have received a campaign pack, so we encourage you to engage with the public, and ask them to sign the petition.
While petitions may not change the world on their own, it gives you the opportunity to have a conversation to raise awareness of the dangerous and short-sighted policy coming out of Government. We know, because we have heard it directly from the Minister, that this activity is having an impact. As I write 400,000 people have signed, but we can and must do more. It really isn’t a hard sell, people love their pharmacies – I promise, you will be heartened and often surprised by the response of the public.
Mike Hewitson is an independent pharmacy contractor based in Dorset, and a member of the NPA & Pharmacy Voice boards
Follow Mike @MikeHewitson1