When I started Xrayser Pharmacy, the must-see TV series was the X-Files. Every week the FBI agents would come so close to understanding government secrets, only to be thwarted by the ever-present conspiracy. While I loved all the weird paranormal stuff, I was never a great conspiracy theorist. Until now.
Since taking to heart two recent health reports – one that we lose brain function from our 40s, and the other that we should have two alcohol-free days – I have assumed that everything is so complicated because I'm getting older. After all, how much harder can it get?
We have a contract for services that requires us to dispense with reasonable promptness drugs that cannot be reasonably promptly obtained. It is an offence for us to dispense a controlled drug prescription with even technical errors, although not an offence for such a prescription to be written.
We have had money taken away from purchase profit with a promise to reinvest, but then we are expected to provide services without assurance of payment, and achieve targets requiring patients to agree to a spurious service.
Despite the rather worrying 15 per cent in C+D's Stocks Survey who said they never make a mistake, the other 85 per cent are expected to record and report our dispensing errors, which can in turn lead to disciplinary action inside or out.
And then I came in the other week to find my PMR system had received yet another automatic downgrade. The result of this software update is that any attempt to dispense an inhaler, antihypertensive, or diabetic treatment generates a pop-up that proclaims the patient eligible for NMS. Irrespective of the fact that they have had said drugs umpteen times in the past, this electronic reminder of targets unmet requires three more keystrokes and one expletive to progress.
Progress – that seems sadly lacking at the moment. Casting my mind back three years I was more affluent, better stocked, more motivated and less stressed, but the most damning indictment is that I am starting to retain the speculative letters from pharmacy sales agents that I previously binned.
If ever a system was designed to fail, this is it, and that is my conspiracy theory. Like the post office, we had a valued essential service that was readily available on every high street, reducing health inequalities and supporting patient care at the point of need.
Instead of encouraging this, the Department of Health policy around stock supply, payment and control of entry has cut away at the foundations of our profession.
The problem with my conspiracy theory is that I don't get who's benefiting, leaving only the law of entropy that says order will tend to chaos.
So instead of the X-Files I am reminded of lines from a song in Monty Python's film The Meaning of Life: "Pray that there's intelligent life somewhere out in space, ‘cos there's bugger all down here on Earth..!"