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Welcome to the funeral for Community Pharmacy - almost

Dress in black. Dim the lights. Wear a sombre expression and murmur sorrowful things. The NPA isn’t planning a funeral for community pharmacy, but the vibe is mournful. However, happily community pharmacy isn’t all dead just yet...

As Miracle Max, the pharmacist from The Princess Bride reminded us, mostly dead isn’t dead.

He also had a few other lines that are relevant for pharmacists in 2024.

“Don’t rush me, sonny”

“You got money?”

But this is a serious occasion. The atmosphere around community pharmacy will be muted on the day in question. Black is the new white. The ‘lights out’ element may not be as dramatic in sunny June as it would be in chilly December, but it will mean pharmacists can see what they are doing when dispensing.

Because they will keep dispensing. The NPA stopped short of calling for a strike because it’s legally problematic to do so in terms of reputation and relationship management, breach of contract and antitrust laws.

Even outside of that restriction it would be unusual given the NPA is a trade association not a union. But in the absence of a strike, a la French pharmacy, the NPA is calling for the next best thing – old-fashioned direct action. Collective action, not industrial action. Vive le résistance!

Read more: French pharmacists strike ‘for the survival of local pharmacies’

Activism has tested public patience in recent times (leave art alone, please) but pharmacists are a mild-mannered bunch compared to some of the activists out there.

They have every right to be just as livid though. Pharmacy serves as a stark example of a sector starting to crack. But their concerns are not entirely selfish. Much of them relate to patient safety rather than how existing roles and hierarchies will change.

But it’s not just that. The concerns of pharmacy just ran into a wall of inertia bought about by the upcoming general election.

What is your best guess for when a new funding deal will arrive? If the answer is ‘not sure’ that’s enlightening in itself.

Negotiations over a new funding deal have stalled because of the election, but they weren’t hurtling along before that.

Read more: Pharmacies to ‘turn out the lights’ on June 20 in ‘emergency’ protest

It’s good to see the NPA seizing some initiative and creating and coordinating a protest that unifies the sector and sees it speaking with one voice.

But a cruel winter approaches. This spark of unity is rare for a sector that disagrees as often as it dispenses.

Still, as Miracle Max memorably said: “There is a big difference between mostly dead, and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.”

So is community pharmacy. And it’s good to see it kicking.

 

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