Pharmacists have called on their medic colleagues to champion their role in healthcare. But is this just a waste of time, ponders The Pharmacist’s GP blogger Dr Livingstone

According to the Pharmaceutical Service Negotiating Committee (PSNC), the pharmacy sector is in need of some positive PR. Specifically, it has been suggested that GPs might act as ‘champions’ to advocate on behalf of pharmacy.

The chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) GP committee has echoed this and repeated the old mantra that pharmacists are the experts in managing minor illness.

To which I give a resounding ‘Hmmmm’. Yes, I’d be happy to give, say, two cheers for my pharmacy colleagues. But to get it up to the full three, I’d like to see this ‘experts in minor illness’ line – trotted out so often that it becomes a self evident truth – subjected to some critical scrutiny.

Specifically, I’d like to see a primary care future in which minor illness is no longer aggrandised, medicalised and monetised by pharmacists. One in which patients are empowered to self-manage the self-limiting. One where treatments suggested are based on best evidence rather than profit margins.

And one in which good clinical common sense and a sound knowledge base are used to inform the frontline approach so that the tiny minority with potentially serious illness masquerading as the reassuringly trivial are spotted and diverted promptly to the GP.

This is asking a lot, both educationally and philosophically. And it might take something tangible and pragmatic to kick-start the process – such as the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) getting together to jointly develop sensible, evidence-based protocols for minor illness, to promote a scientific and consistent approach.

That’s an idea I certainly would champion. And, if adopted, I’d suggest the perceived image problem of pharmacists would take care of itself.