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King Charles must recognise pharmacy as the jewel in the primary care crown

As the coronation for our new monarch draws closer, Beth Kennedy reflects on King Charles III’s record with community pharmacy

There have been moments throughout my life when I’ve had the rather eerie sensation of living through a piece of history. As banal as that might sound – after all, surely we’re all living through history all of the time – I’m sure you’ll understand what I mean.

I’m referring to that feeling you get when you realise that the event you’ve just witnessed, discussed with a friend in the pub or seen on the telly will be plastered across history books for generations to come. There have been many such moments in the past few years alone; Brexit, the war in Ukraine, and, of course, the death of the Queen last year.

Read more: Pharmacy bodies pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II as national mourning begins

Next Saturday (May 6) marks the date of another historical event with the coronation of her son, King Charles III. While many pharmacy professionals may give the event no further thought than vague irritation at the fact that they’re unable to shut up shop for the event, it did get me wondering what the sector can expect from our new monarch.

Back in January, I decried community pharmacy’s conspicuous omission from the King’s New Year’s Honours list. It seemed an odd move at the time, especially given that only a few months earlier the then-Prince of Wales had invited a number of representatives from the sector to a royal reception honouring their “dedication”  during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

When I looked back over C+D’s news archives over the past few years, there weren’t many references to our new King, or indeed the wider royal family. I wonder whether this is reflective of modern attitudes towards the monarchy – arguably very different to when the UK crowned Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

Indeed, poring over the pages of old copies of C+D (which you can find archived by the Wellcome Library) in the wake of her coronation 70 years ago, I’m struck by how differently pharmacy professionals are preparing for King Charles to be crowned.

Read more: Pharmacies must stay open for King’s coronation, PSNC reminds contractors

While pharmacists in 1953 were being advised on how they could jazz up their window displays for the coronation, most of their modern-day counterparts don’t seem to be marking the occasion with anything other than a regular working day.

Then again, what with rising workloads and a funding crisis to contend with, perhaps today’s community pharmacy teams have too much on their minds to pay too much mind to the coronation – and who could blame them?

But King Charles is often said to have ambitions of modernising the monarchy. He now has an opportunity now to champion the sector, and I hope that he will. After all, he has a weekly audience with our Prime Minister – famously the son of a community pharmacist.

I love the image of the King and Rishi Sunak chatting about community pharmacy over a cup of tea at Buckingham Palace. But while we’ll never be privy to those conversations, I hope that King Charles will at some point publicly declare his support for the sector once again.

While a few warm words would hardly do away with the years of injustice that community pharmacy has had to weather, it’d be a good start.

Beth Kennedy is editor of C+D

How is your pharmacy marking the coronation of King Charles III? Email [email protected] to share your stories

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