What’s the point of pharmacists?


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I don’t see the point of pharmacists, and I never have. And no, that’s not first-sentence-in-first-blog hubris. Contrarians like me don’t see the point in a lot of things.

Another example: pharmaceutical company ads. I remember, when I first qualified, not being able to get my head round the very concept of pharma marketing – it was like trying to sell the idea of a flat earth to a freshly minted astrophysicist. And those ads still give me a ‘what’s all that about?’ feeling.

Just like pharmacists, in fact. Except that, while my colleagues were always sniffy about pharma ads, they seemed to accept, unquestioningly, the existence of pharmacists – just as we tend to unquestioningly accept the existence of, say, socks, or wasps.

Until now, that is. Because the Government’s current scorched-earth policy towards community pharmacy means its purpose is suddenly a matter of hot debate. In one corner are people like politicians, who are thinking the unthinkable as they seek to scrimp and save to keep the NHS afloat.

And people like me, too, who have always thought that pharmacists are an expensive anachronism, given that they’re just about qualified to repeat a pharmacology service GPs already provide, and over-qualified to store pharmaceuticals, count pills and run a shop.

And in the other corner are, of course, pharmacists themselves, who try to justify their existence by citing their service to the community, the new roles they keep dreaming up to make themselves seem indispensible and the plague of minor ills which will decimate general practice if they are rendered extinct.

It’s all very intriguing. As is the Government’s strategy, which appears to be to shift the role and, ultimately, the cost of community pharmacists into general practice, using pump-priming money as a sweetener.

It’s so transparent and crassly formulated that you end up scratching your head in wonder at those who thought GPs – and pharmacists – would swallow it. Then again, I’ve never seen the point of politicians, either.

Dr Livingstone is The Pharmacist’s new GP blogger.

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  • matthew

    What is the point to this article? Feels like Dr Livingstone is confirming a suspicion about GP’s thoughts on pharmacist and generalizing these thoughts on behalf of all GP’s. Correct me if I am wrong but this article I feel doesn’t help breaking down obstacles affecting the relationship between GP’s and Pharmacists. Maybe I could suggest replacing it with a pharmaceutical advert (at least we would know what its talking about)

    • Woolton Late Night Pharmacy

      Not an intelligent article. I think many of your fellow GPs would disagree! There’s the obvious omission here that pharmacist’s are an important safety net without which many patients would be directly harmed from the medicines that are supposed to help them. Many a good GP appreciates this and they show much respect to their fellow professionals who, like them, are working hard in the business of treating patients and helping them with their illnesses.

      The patients also would totally disagree with you. At least if the largest NHS petition in UK history, in favour of community Pharmacy is anything to go by!

  • Jacqueline Patel

    I thought all GP’s were overworked and had no time for anything other than seeing patients, let alone spout unprofessional self importance on issues they know very little about!!!!!