It's high time pharmacists and their teams are afforded the respect and parity they deserve, writes Doncaster GP Dr Dean Eggitt 

The original GPs in the NHS were failed hospital doctors, or so they say.   

They didn’t want to work in a hospital, so they set up a business at home and used what little skills they had to provide care in the community.  

They were quacks, or so they say. An unregulated jack of all trades. Of course, others think of them as pioneers and the very foundation upon which the world’s most famous system of universal healthcare is built. 

General practice is highly regulated now and being a GP is a career choice akin to being a consultant of community care. But, has the perception of GPs changed?  

To many, yes. Some understand the dedication, hard work, and cognitive challenges of the career and hold GPs in high regard. Others still believe that GPs are unregulated, failed hospital doctor, quacks.  

It’s hard to form a balanced opinion without the facts and ignorance often prevails. 

We have seen this recently with an article in Pulse. The article is satirical and I’m sure was written with good intention to cheer GPs who have had a most dreadful year with covid, bless them.  

Well, I am one of those GPs and I too have had a dreadful year with an unsustainable workload and daily threat of severe illness from exposure during the pandemic. Honestly, I’ve felt a little bit heroic for coping and welcomed the #NHSGeorgeCross and 2.1% pay rise as my rewards. 

You may wonder why I’m writing about GPs. Well, I want to frame some context so that I can draw your attention to pharmacists. 

You see, pharmacists are also frequently seen through the lens of ignorance. Everyone knows that the job of a pharmacist is to count pills and to sell nonsense to gullible patients, or so they say.   

They are not really a part of the NHS and only dispense the medicines that make them money, or so they say.   

Of course, others recognise that pharmacists are university educated professionals who are highly regulated yet provide an assessment and treatment service that is undocumented and consequently unrecognised. 

I believe that pharmacists have been a key player to the survival of our great NHS and are the scaffolding upon which we can build back better. 

During the pandemic, pharmacies did not close. Pharmacists have remained on the frontline of healthcare both in the community and in hospitals, seeing patients every single day, and in many cases, without PPE.   

They literally risked their lives to provide assessment, advice, and medicines to patients who were otherwise unable to access care elsewhere. The national strategy was to ask patients to stay home and self-care with the support of their local pharmacists.   

Where the NHS was full, pharmacists stepped up and delivered. 

Pharmacists are also a part of the national strategy moving forward. Pharmacists have been asked to move into general practice, which has depleted the hospital and community workforce. Nonetheless, pharmacies now deliver vaccinations as well as see, assess, and treat, using their depleted and overworked teams.   

This is in addition to rigorously managing the safe use of medicines. It’s also worth noting that many pharmacists don’t get protected CPD time, an NHS pension, or even a seat to rest on during their shift. 

General practice and pharmacy teams are natural allies at a crossroads in the life of the NHS. As the foundation and scaffolding of universal healthcare, we must work together to design primary care of the future.  

The inauguration of integrated care systems in April 2022 means that we have a genuine opportunity to redesign the system to work better for patients and for us. We can only do that if we communicate with each other, address ignorance, and plan solutions to barriers.   

I implore you. Meet your local primary care colleagues and start this journey of change, today. 

Dr Dean Eggitt is principal GP at the Pakwood Surgery in Doncaster, CEO of Doncaster Local Medical Committee and director of Pre Medical School