Community pharmacists are sick to the back teeth of being quietly sidelined by pharmacy bigwigs, argues Mandeep Mudhar, director of marketing and development at Numark

I’ve been reflecting following the All-Parliamentary Pharmacy Group (APPG) meeting last month where the heavyweights of the political world of pharmacy turned up. Pharmacy minister Steve Brine, chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge and a whole load of other important people (allegedly) attempting to influence the direction of travel for pharmacy.

Once again, we are left with much head scratching to do, new jargon to interpret and many unanswered questions about the futility of it all. So let’s start with the head scratching.

When asked about progress regarding the Murray Review – a review that looked at expanding clinical services that community pharmacies could provide – progress that had been promised by NHS England, the response was to forget that. In Dr Ridge's view, the report had already been taken into account. That ship has long sailed.

Really? Which bit? The part about redesigning medicines use reviews (MURs) so that they become a full clinical medication review? No. About expanding the commissioning of minor ailments services?  Not that either; nothing has happened.

In fact, later at this meeting, Dr Ridge stated that minor ailments schemes were being increasingly decommissioned and needed to be replaced by – and here’s the jargon – digitally led solutions. So, I presume, robots dealing with minor ailments?

Anyway, back to the Murray review. Dr Ridge was keen to point out that one of the recommendations from the review – that of pharmacist integration into GP practices – was well underway. So let’s see; the parts of the review that spoke about enhancing the role of community pharmacists – all binned. The part about creating another type of pharmacist, further blurring the lines between what a community pharmacist should be doing and what these practice-integrated pharmacists intend to do – full speed ahead. Yet another body blow to community pharmacy.

Remember the burial of the Call to Action review in 2014? We should have known better when we saw the Murray review. We should have known it would go nowhere. But we are not cynics, we are caring health care professionals trying to do our best for our patients. We suspect cynicism will now be the order of the day with anything the Government pretends to offer pharmacy.

Minor ailments drama

But let’s get back to the minor ailments saga. A year ago, it was something that the Government deemed important and one that ministers were committed to ensuring clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) provide. A year on, the clock has moved on, according to Mr Brine.

The robotic solution suggested by Dr Ridge has clearly taken demand away from GPs and A&E and everyone in the land is happy. No more clogging up of surgeries or hospitals and pharmacies do not need to deal with patients with pesky conditions. Maybe these robots can now move onto sorting out all the failing hospitals in the land since they are so brilliant.

For once, just once, deliver on your promises, dear ministers. Just once, Dr Ridge, stand up and be counted for the profession you purport to oversee. Just once, let us see something tangible carried through that allows community pharmacists to provide enhanced services and care for their patients with some sensible remuneration and sustainability.

Might that be the most obvious thing that comes to everyone’s mind – a national minor ailment scheme? From our perspective and on behalf of our Numark members, we will continue to maintain a dialogue with NHS England and the Department of Heath (DH). We are not letting anyone off the hook. Promises have to be delivered.

Not much to ask for – or is it?