NHS England's Call To Action (CTA) consultation has been referred to as "the best opportunity to change pharmacy for the better in a lifetime" and "the last chance for a generation to influence direction of the profession". To criticise it is almost sacrilegious but, to be honest, the whole thing has left me a bit overwhelmed.
Several times I've sat with guidance from our local professional network and navigated to our LPC website where it is collating responses. But this isn't some quick five-minute survey. This is – to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes – a three glasses of wine problem.
But reader, this is important work. So I bravely made my way through those three glasses of wine and I did complete the survey. And had we not been entreated otherwise by our Editor's Comment I might have made some satirical and possibly cynical observation about CTA, but I shall not. Instead I shall ask…what happened to all those other consultations?
The Call to Action isn't a quick five-minute survey – it's a three glasses of wine problem
Not long ago we were told "pharmacy is at a crossroads" by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS)production Now or Never: Shaping pharmacy for the future. The RPS must have spent pretty much all the income from its 500 members on that detailed and perceptive document – so why hasn't someone just given NHS England a copy of that and said: "There you go – just do what it says in here!"
And what about PSNC? In between drinking endless cups of coffee while debating a payment for carpets in consultation rooms or whatever pointless thing is holding up last year's funding arrangements, I bet they've written something about improving health and patient care through community pharmacy.
The thing is, I'm pleased to be consulted but I'm not the best person to ask because I'm going to say the answer is for services to be commissioned from a pharmacy like mine and not from large multiples or internet pharmacies or anyone else that I might see as competition. We all have a limited view, and that's why we elect people we believe are better placed to make such decisions on our behalf. Any national consultation is like "asking the audience" – a system that's great for an answer to general knowledge, but when proposing new structures you end up with something designed by committee.
But while I look to PSNC, RPS and Pharmacy Voice for the best response, I expect they'd say that politically the best response is to be seen to engage with CTA. I guess that's probably more important than the answer. Just as it takes more than one tug boat to change the direction of a big ship, it may need more than one report to push community pharmacy to the forefront of NHS service provision.