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‘Daft bureaucracy’: Shadow health secretary questions supervision rule

The shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, has railed against the “daft bureaucracy” that means a pharmacist must be on site to supervise every prescription that is handed over to patients, even if the medicines in question have already been checked and labelled by a registered pharmacist.

Speaking today (September 26) at the Labour party conference taking place in Liverpool this week, Mr Streeting suggested that “sensible improvements on things like medicine dispensing” could be made.

He gave the example of a friend who was unable to collect pain-relieving drugs for her father-in-law, who was “literally dying”, because a pharmacist was not present in the pharmacy when she arrived.

Read more: Pharmacy supervision: The DH seems committed to changing the law; we must set the terms

“The drugs were on the shelf, already packaged, already labelled, already bundled up, but the person behind the counter wasn’t legally allowed to hand those drugs over,” he explained.

But if his friend had ordered the medication online, “and that person worked in the mailing house, that same person who wasn’t allowed to hand [the prepared prescription] over the counter could have put them in an envelope, labelled them and put them in the post”, he stated, describing the situation as “daft bureaucracy”.

Under current legislation, the responsible pharmacist can leave the premises for up to two hours in an emergency, although no pharmacy or prescription-only drugs can be sold or dispensed in their absence.


A bigger role for pharmacy?


“I really want pharmacy to play a bigger role in primary care,” Mr Streeting told delegates, after he made a case for how Labour intended to improve the NHS and social care if the party is elected into power.

The Labour MP believes that “pharmacy can do an awful lot of good” in helping patients avoid a two-week wait for a GP appointment or a “miserable” and unnecessary A&E visit.

Were he to become health secretary under a Labour government, Mr Streeting’s programme for change would involve a shift in focus for healthcare towards prevention, he said.


Pharmacy needs image change


A shift in “public awareness” is also needed so that pharmacies can step in to support the NHS, Mr Streeting said in response to a question from C+D.

“Too many people out there think that pharmacists [are] just really good at counting pills and putting the right number in a packet and handing them over,” he explained.

The public needs to recognise that pharmacists “are highly trained, highly qualified health care professionals who can help with a wide range of [ailments]”, he said.


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