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'Pharmacy's PR over recent years has been abysmal'

Mike Smith: There is a limit to what pharmacy can do for nothing
Mike Smith: There is a limit to what pharmacy can do for nothing

Pharmacy has come a long way during Mike Smith’s 50-year career, but “abysmal” public relations have meant the profession is still not paid properly for what it can do, he told C+D.

The profession still has a long way to go before it is fully appreciated by “our paymasters and NHS England”, said Mr Smith, a non-executive advisor at Alliance Healthcare.

“The problem we have is that [pharmacy] is not recognised widely enough for us to be paid properly,” he said.

And while patients and the public “really value what we do”, it is the government and commissioners who need convincing.

“Frankly, [pharmacy’s] PR over recent years has been abysmal. Pharmacists are very good at what they do and I don’t think that is recognised widely enough.”

Mr Smith – who celebrates 50 years in the pharmacy profession – said there are “more effective ways of reaching the communities we serve”.

He suggested that "public opinion could be our best PR”.

Appropriate reward

“I could weep every winter when I read about the pressures on A&E and GP practices,” Mr Smith said. “We could do a lot of that, and I think it is slowly dawning on clinical commissioning groups and NHS England.”

However, with services must come appropriate remuneration, Mr Smith stressed.

“There’s a limit to what we can do for nothing. I know of many cases where patients are very happy to pay a pharmacist for a blood pressure test, medical screening, health and wellbeing counselling, and things of that nature.”

"I think there is a very strong case for developing some private, sustainable income streams for services," he said.

The profession has to make itself “indispensable” if it is going to survive, Mr Smith explained. “You actually have to speculate to accumulate, because frankly there is no money to pay for this stuff,” he stressed.

“I’m not banging on the door looking for money. I’m banging on the door saying: ‘Appreciate what we do’. In time, I believe remuneration will follow."

How do you think pharmacy could better promote its capabilities?

Stephen Eggleston, Community pharmacist

Why should we do anything for free? Everything has a "cost" associated

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

we need to not depend on the NHS, this will be the only way the "profession" will survive

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Pharmacy can promote until the cows come home, but if the money is not there, or willing to be shared, it will be for naught.

Matt G, Community pharmacist

Respect is earned not given Benjamin, and I feel you've missed the point of the article or deliberately ignored it to make some cynical point. No one is giving handouts anymore, value and worth must be demonstrated before the NHS will invest money. As a sector, we must do all we can to show that the investment we want is low risk.

Read the story on C&D right now "Boots' prescribing pioneer is now seeing attitudes change", Mrs. Sillito demonstrated what pharmacists are able to do, and now the NHS is funding pharmacists to go into GP surgerys and prescribe. 

Anonymous Anonymous, Information Technology

It's funny I worked for a GP surgery for 15 months. Throughout that period pharmacists were always having to demonstrate their "worth" by producing and hitting KPIs, etc. However, you don't seem to see doctors and nurses (on many multiples of our salaries) having to show their worth! I even knew a diabetes specialist nurse that wasn't aware that metformin was first line and had been prescribing gliclazide to everybody under the sun! Absolutely shocking!!

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