Patients and GPs don’t always see eye to eye on matters of medicine – just take the average conversation on the need versus want for antibiotics, for example. But recent comments about pharmacists from patient group National Voices will be echoed by the average GP.
According to the group, pharmacists are “locked in a dysfunctional retail model” from which they need to “break free”. Otherwise, it seems, they will never make the best use of their skills and training.
Quite right, my colleagues will say – that lingering tension between the diametrically opposed roles of scientist and shopkeeper is what undermines your credibility and presents a significant obstacle in the push for general practice and pharmacy to work in perfect harmony.
Even more interesting than this rare consensus is the reaction of pharmacists to the story. A number have pointed out that the income split in independents is something like 90:10 for NHS compared to retail. I have to admit that this is a real revelation to me – and, I suspect, to all my colleagues. And presumably to National Voices, too. It’s a message worth propagating, because it’s one that might help improve relationships between pharmacists and those who are a bit sniffy about them.
The fact is that most GPs view pharmacists as primarily ‘retailers’ and therefore as having a completely different agenda to those of us who perceive ourselves as working valiantly in the frontline of the NHS. Even if you thought we did it for the money, too.
So bang that drum and enlighten us GPs. Better still, cordon off 10% of your pharmacy and badge it as the ‘evidence-free/retail zone’. That way, you may well find GPs taking you far more seriously – at least 90% of the time.
Dr Messenger is a GP trying to negotiate the impenetrable structures and commissioning quagmires of the reformed NHS. Genuinely good friends with his local pharmacist, he offers a GP take on the primary care issues of the day. Please don't shoot, he comes in peace