Our GP blogger Dr Livingstone reflects on the workload of community pharmacies in recent weeks

Yes, true, I have used various blogs in the past to question the, er, value of pharmacies and pharmacists, and even to speculate as to whether we actually, also er, really need either at all.

But that was then, and this is now. And now, as we’re all fed up of hearing, is an extraordinary time, somewhere between ‘normal’ and the ‘new normal’, though where we are on that particular journey isn’t clear.

What is clear is that you pharmacists are doing a spectacular job under almost impossible circumstances. I would doff my PPE visor to you, if only I had one.

Seriously, though. I really feel for you at present. Patients have been stockpiling meds, breaking your doors down for non NSAID analgesics, freaking out over inhaler shortages, wanting advice from you (pharmacists) because they don’t want to bother us (GPs), panicking over whether to take their ACEIs, and generally spending their one hour of isolation freedom fretting around outside the local pharmacy, just in case they feel the need for some OTC medication.

I can only imagine the strain you’ve been under (actually, I don’t have to imagine it. I’ve been in those queues, patiently waiting for my inhaled steroid, which naturally, you can’t get hold of on account of people like me suddenly remembering we’re supposed to be on them).

And that’s without those other extra little stresses, like the government suddenly deciding that a pharmacy delivery service is contractually mandatory as of yesterday, and patients getting abusive because they’re used to instant gratification. All of which makes me realise why I can’t seem to get hold of any lorazepam.

Worse still, I fear that we GPs may inadvertently be aggravating your problems. For example, I don’t know exactly what your dispensing turnaround time is currently, but I know it’s (understandably) a lot longer than usual. But that doesn’t stop me saying, as I telephone triage the umpteenth ‘I need my antibiotic asap’ UTI of day duty: ‘I’m emailing your prescription right now’.

I have no idea what will happen at your end, when the patient turns up, but I suspect I’ve probably raised their expectation beyond what you can reasonably deliver.

And that’s just one example. For all I know, I may be ruining your day in lots of other ways, too. The answer is simple. Tell us. Speak to us. Tell us if the things we’re doing, the buttons we’re pressing or even the drugs we’re prescribing, are making your life impossible. Otherwise, we will carry on, oblivious. You know we GPs wouldn’t be backward in coming forward. Nor should you be.

Meanwhile, in penance for past and current misdemeanours, I applaud you. If you don’t believe me, stand outside my house at 8pm on Thursday evening.