Our grouchy GP blogger Dr Livingstone might just be convinced about plans for pharmacists being able to override his prescriptions in case of severe medicines shortages
I’m anticipating a reflex hoo-ha from my GP colleagues about pharmacists being able to ‘override’ their prescriptions during medicine shortages. Poorly planned, inadequately thought through, undermining GPs, therapeutic minefield, medicolegal nightmare, yada yada.
So it may surprise you to know that, despite generally conforming to the harrumphing GP stereotype, I’m actually all in favour of this scheme. It’s about time our ‘highly trained’ – to quote the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) – pharmacists were given the opportunity to demonstrate that high level of training. It’s just a pity you weren’t given those powers some years ago, when stock shortages first reared their ugly head.
Apparently, health secretary Matt Hancock has said this is not just about Brexit. Which presumably means that it mainly is, then. After all, despite stock shortages having been around for ages, and creating mass hassle for all involved, there hasn’t been so much as the batting of a political eyelid until now.
So it can be no coincidence that the current ‘plan’ to drive Britain off a cliff has focused the mind on maintaining a supply of medication while we plummet.
Better late than never – as I say, I’m all in favour. In theory, at least. It’s the practice that worries me. Because, unless pharmacists are absolutely spot-on with their communication, then this plan will generate rather than save work for GPs. Why?
Let me speculate on the opening gambit of a typical post-Brexit, post-medication switch consultation: ‘The pharmacist has changed my pills, I can’t remember the name of the new ones but you’ll know, they’re green and a funny shape, I wanted to check they’re OK, why did he change them, am I on these forever now, will you update my repeat medication list, are these ones good enough, are they safe, should I change pharmacists, do you think they’re what’s making my teeth itch, it’s all because of Brexit it, isn’t it….’
And so on, way, way beyond their allocated ten minutes.
I really do not want that consultation. What I really do want is for you pharmacists to pre-empt it by explaining everything clearly to my patient and to make it clear that any resulting dysfunction is to be discussed with you and not me. So let’s hope that high level of training includes advanced communication skills.