Pressures of work and home life mean blogs are becoming few and far between for me, but I was reminded to pen this brief one by a recent tweet.

Of late there’s been angst aimed at Keith Ridge over his perceived prejudice against community pharmacy. It’s important that we can and do share our opinions on all things that matter to us, but I’m still apprehensive about wading in on this because – frankly – I have little skin in that game these days, and certainly nowhere near the level of commitment of those most vociferous against him.

But in my mind there’s a point that needs airing – and one that isn’t the result of any conflict of interest (never met him, never worked for the department).
‘Austerity’ aside, the country as a whole is in depressing financial territory, which is likely to get worse as Brexit gets properly underway. Pressures on the treasury become pressures on all government departments, and we know the NHS is not immune to this – and so neither can its contractors, pharmacy included. The community pharmacy contract funding cuts are aren’t fair nor evidence based and I’m not ignoring the huge impact they will have on individuals and their families, but still they’re coming – and after post offices, libraries and schools taking the same we can hardly be surprised that pharmacies too are in line for a pounding.

And here’s the point: pharmacies ≠ pharmacists.

If bricks and mortar cannot or will not be funded by the treasury, then I expect our CPO to instead work hard behind the scenes to ensure that pharmacists themselves (and the value they provide patients and the healthcare system) continue to be funded and delivered in different ways in line with changes in the health system as a whole. A move into GP practices is a high profile example, but also consider the work being done in care homes, urgent and emergency care, community services and in years to come, genomic medicine and 3D-printed medicines.

The CPO is the of head of the pharmacy profession, not head of pharmacy sectors nor head of pharmacy infrastructure. We know the ‘sectors’ mentality has been bad for us in the past, and so to me it looks to me like our CPO is doing his job – ensuring the profession as a whole continues to be seen, heard and move with the times – and for that I feel I have to write in his defence.

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