It seems Matt Hancock thinks French pharmacy has a certain je ne sais quoi


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By Dr Livingstone
GP blogger

25 Jun 2019

Why in particular does the health secretary greatly admire the way our friends over the channel do community pharmacy, asks our GP blogger Dr Livingstone

Bonjour mes amis, comment allez-vous aujourd’hui?

I ask, because health secretary and erstwhile prime-ministerial candidate Matt Hancock apparently wants pharmacy services to be a bit more French. I don’t mean he wants you to wear a beret, string some onions around your neck and give an exaggerated shrug when customers ask you about their medication, though you’re welcome to try that approach if you like.

He simply means, from what he said via a video link at the recent National Pharmacy Association (NPA) conference in Manchester, that he likes the French model of pharmacy. It’s not first time he’s come over all Francophile, either, as he made the same Gallic noises at the Conservative party conference last October.

This is all quite mysterieux. It’s always difficult comparing professionals from different countries when their healthcare systems are so different. Besides, there are far more pharmacies per head of population in France, and these are all independents, with no real chains or multiples operating.

And Monsieur Hancock hasn’t exactly been dishing out much detail, as the explanation last October was limited to him wanting pharmacies to do ‘more’ and, this time around, that they should ‘provide more urgent care services like they do in France’.

At least this latter statement rings a bell, though, as the new GP contract promises that the 111 pilots – in which patients were directly referred to pharmacists for minor ailment management – will be rolled out nationally, probably at the same time as 111 changes its name to un, un, un.

What’s missing in all this talk about pharmacy and pharmacists taking over at the front line is any substantial talk about training or funding. Is this work, stress and risk you are just supposed to absorb? If so, all the usual talk about pharmacists being a vital part of the NHS team and at the centre of his vision for health care will simply leave you with a sense of déjà-vu – whatever that is in French.


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