I’m sat in traffic going nowhere fast. This great city of my birth, a once-proud industrial hub, is now an overcrowded car park. I blame the planners.
Time was when you could get from the city’s outskirts into the centre within 10 minutes, thanks to the motorway. But slowly and surely, successive council planners have added bus lanes and metro-routes, and all these little add-on junctions have promised everything but delivered nothing. Then upon arriving at work, I experience the same thing in the pharmacy.
Foolishly, I thought the purpose of pharmacy was to be an advocate for patients – supporting and improving their health, and ensuring they get the most benefit from their medicines. That used to mean my days were hard enough when defined by simple tasks, like begging for an increase of stock quota while fitting in a couple of medicines use reviews (MURs). But recently it’s become more like juggling chainsaws while reciting pi to 20 decimal points.
Don’t get me wrong – for years I’ve argued for both a pharmacy quality and outcomes framework and for additional clinical services. So with the government’s introduction of a Quality Payments Scheme for pharmacy funding and NHS England’s decision to back a sore throat diagnosis scheme, I should be as happy as a billionaire elected president. If only I didn’t feel they were a sop offered to pharmacy to appease our recently acquired political support.
It’s pathetic to be offered a quality payment dependent upon having our NHS Choices entry up to date and using the electronic prescription service, along with some obscure clinical test. The Department of Health might have been rattled by our new-found lobbying power, but it’s not stopped them treating us like whiny kids for whom they’ve reached into a toy box. Out comes a threat of “no pocket money unless you tidy up your pharmacy, and here’s an old game no one else wanted to play with”.
Until someone in NHS England is genuinely converted to the concept of a joined-up primary care service, my working day will continue to resemble one of those multifunction penknives. The prescription queries stack up, while I decide whether to deliver the MUR, emergency hormonal contraception or flu jab first. Meanwhile there’s a queue of people who have been sent in to ‘ask their pharmacist’, including several asking for the sore throat test they had read about before I did.
Then I opened the newspaper to read about the chancellor’s £1.3 billion investment to ease road congestion, proof that there is public money available to invest in infrastructure. If you speak to the chief executives of clinical commissioning groups, they admit there is money that could be moved to more cost- effective areas of service provision – but won’t, as that means removing funds from the GPs or hospitals they have come to depend upon for core income.
I blame the planners.