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Xrayser hopeful number 1: Pharmacy is in a right royal mess

Our first Xrayser candidate describes a recurring nightmare about a royal reception they weren't invited to last year

"The Pig’s Head pub is a fine place for my buttocks, but today I deserve to be here, standing beside Prince Charles!".

I wake up with a jolt – disorientated and in a painful daze, Mrs X's elbow digging into my ribs. "Just shut up," she mutters. Even our cat's glaring eyes in the darkness are reminiscent of that truck scene in Uninvited.

As everyone knows, a community pharmacist's life is only a tiny misstep from tumbling down a hill while being attacked by a puppet feline stowaway.

This has become my recurring nightmare, replacing the man dressed in a Drug Tariff outfit running around screaming "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (Back my Cat M)".

It started last year after images emerged of community pharmacy colleagues hobnobbing with the then-Prince Charles at a Royal reception. I was not jealous. Never.

Read more: Prince Charles praises pharmacy teams' ‘dedication’ at St James’s Palace

The trigger was a patient commenting that she thought had spotted me on the TV, too, although she soon realised her error. The toupee did not match my sideburns, and the person she saw on the telly was a lot taller than me. Hey, who is to say I wasn't there?

For a start, at a time when locums are at a premium due to the "shortage of pharmacists", I wonder how so many people were able to take a day off to make it to the reception. I am more responsible.

Maybe attendees just designed a notice with the image of the Queen's head adorning the border pattern with the words – CLOSED FOR ROYAL APPOINTMENT? That screams of a desperation to name-drop, I would say. A banner across the front of the building with the same words but in a lower case would do. Subtle and understated, much more my style.

In my nightmare, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) visits on said day. A nosy passerby blurts out, "Royal Appointment? After that incident with the pens, he is more likely sitting in the Pig’s Head pub than with Prince Charles!”

Read more: A snub to community pharmacy hasn’t got 2023 off to the best start

The pens, you ask? A small stain on my reputation after my absent-minded effort to support pen recycling after the pub quiz night. We all do it; collect the pens, put them safely in your pocket. It never ceases to pain me when people just refuse to move on from small things. 

I just hope those who got the royal invites made the most of the opportunity. Without condoning pilfering, I hear that royal cutlery, plates, loo rolls or even serving trays all go for very high prices across the pond. I blame the French for killing the European zeal to make the most of monarchy.

But our new King is a man to calm choppy waters. Crisis is an understatement to describe the ever-present civil war that is community pharmacy. With the Royal Charter in peril and the pernicious state of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) all certainly weighing heavily on his shoulders, bringing pharmacy together and settling conflicts could be a gift to take away with no need to hide it in your pocket or undergarments. 

Read more: Inside the Queen’s pharmacy: From flu jabs to the coronation anointing oil

If I had been at the royal reception, I would also declare my love for the science of homoeopathy – all of it, especially the dilutions. Just like community pharmacy NHS funding cuts, if, against all odds, one survives, it proves that the remedy was correct and exceptionally brilliant.

It even lends itself to a citation – the Royal Homoeopathic Cross for those that survive by disproving all common sense and logic.

All these months later, I am so happy for those invited, like other colleagues selected to deliver COVID-19 jabs; good on them. My day will come too. I will drop everything, change into clothes not permeating with the smell of thiamine, put out my banner, and head off.

Retirement? No chance. Dear patient, watch this space. I still have my NHS Cross to earn.

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