But now we have Pharmacy Petition 2.0, and last time I checked, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has already got more than 425,000 signatures – which equates to more than 12 pages.
Even in our digital age, handing over a truckload of paper is a better photo opportunity than showing the Department of Health (DH) a webpage.
But if the DH is right that there really are too many pharmacies, it shouldn’t be left to the government to choose who survives. Instead, there should be a whole new inspection principle for pharmacies, based upon what patients want. Some suggestions:
Principle 1 – pharmacists have to be a part of the community they serve. You and your staff must live within two miles of the pharmacy. Locums are allowed – provided they are local.
Principle 2 – you must have time to talk to patients and the public. To ensure this, a new service will be introduced, called a Chemist Health Assessment Talk, or CHAT. Pharmacists will be required to CHAT to a minimum of 400 patients a year and companies will be expected to set CHAT targets.
The service requires patient counselling that includes (but is not limited to): the dangers of statins as described in the newspaper that day; why the doctor won’t let them have any more tramadol; and how the rain is playing havoc with their arthritis.
Principle 3 – there must be adequate, comfortable seating at the dispensary occupied at all times by a minimum of three of the following:
- a woman with a large shopping bag who may be waiting for a prescription but nobody really knows because she speaks no English;
- a stressed mother with three screaming children and a lightweight pushchair that keeps toppling over with the weight of the carrier bags on the handle;
- a teenager covered in acne;
- an overly chatty man who reeks of alcohol even when it’s only 10am.
Principle 4 – the pharmacy must provide “local services”. These include supplying directions to any location within a 10-mile radius, debating the political intentions of the DH’s prescription exemption categories, and providing an opportunity for customers to try their hand at over-the-counter prescribing: “Threadworms? My neighbour swears by a cup of vinegar taken at both ends…”
Principle 5 – an essential part of the local pharmacy service is for the pharmacist to be licensed to sell intoxicating products. Diphenhydramine, codeine linctus, pseudoephedrine and solvents should all be readily sold with a cheerful greeting of “Hello mate – the usual?”
And, of course, the customer is always right. So any pharmacy that fails to comply with these principles will of course be deemed to fail and be closed down – without the need for any cuts at all. You have been warned.