Does my pharmacy make a difference? I'd like to think so, and not just to the users of our extensive commissioned services – the usual suspects like EHC, supervised consumption, smoking cessation – but to the community, as in ‘community pharmacy'. Of course, I don't think we're mending Broken Britain, that meaningless expression for a failing society resulting from – depending on which newspaper you read – immigrants, bankers' bonuses or a foreigner managing the England team. No – I mean that, like all pharmacies, our services go beyond what is commissioned.
Take Mrs Green for example. A regular patient in her 80s, since Mr Green passed away we have become her source of support. Only last week she asked me to go through her endoscopy letter – complete with gruesome pictures of her eroded gullet – to reassure her.
Such needs are becoming ever more common in all pharmacies, as a changing society means we fulfil roles previously performed by a spouse, children, or neighbours, and while you could argue that the establishment payment of the contract reflects this, it is failing to keep up with the increasing demand.
Now, the government always says tax advantages that encourage small businesses are good for society, because local businesses employ people, collect VAT and PAYE, and encourage local employment and local spending. Surely then, the same argument is true for some of the unpaid care and support provided by community pharmacy?
A GP once thanked us for looking after one of her patients, saying: "Because you bubble-packed and delivered her medication, and through the other support you gave, she was able to remain in her own home for longer than she would otherwise."
So it must be time that someone added two and two together and made the link between our local, community service and savings on social provision. And while I don't know how that can be better reflected in our funding package, it should at least be justification to free up our time.
So I applaud the call by Pharmacy Voice to cut red tape and other such demands upon us, although I am uncertain how much time doing away with "snipping" of patient packs will give me to spend on what they call "front-line care". Front-line care is certainly descriptive of the war zone that is community pharmacy now – the waves of scripts that come pouring in and the shell-shock from an incessantly ringing telephone. Even the recent BBC programme about the military supply logistics – Bullets, Boots, and Bandages – reflects our problem of getting stock and supply on time.
If it is a war zone in our dispensaries, my fear is that the ever-greater demands on our time will result in collateral damage. I only hope this initiative will prove more effective than the old RPSGB campaign on workplace pressures, and that Pharmacy Voice will not be so easily dissuaded.