As a community pharmacy owner, I can hold my own in any blame game – stock shortages are manufacturers' fault; for cash worries, inadequate funding is the culprit; and if patients demand too much, it's because they just don't understand what I do.
As a PSNC regional representative, I am regularly held to account by pharmacists for the fact that pharmacy is not awash with excess NHS money. And, as an LPC member, I am similarly held responsible if local services dry up.
We've all read headlines about LPCs and PSNC needing to up their games in the reformed NHS and deliver all things to all pharmacies. And, as a levy-paying contractor, I agree – the contribution pharmacy could and often does make to the nation's health is certainly undervalued by some and it is time we corrected this. The difference between me and some critics is that, for me, the "we" is not the royal "we" because I reached the conclusion some years ago that I needed to act.
pharmacy could and often does make to the nation's health is certainly undervalued by some and it is time we corrected this
But what could I do? Well, first I became an LPC member and I now see at first-hand how hard many LPCs are working, only to be left simply tearing their hair out in frustration at the lack of co-ordination and budgets in the reformed NHS. When that wasn't enough, I stood for election onto PSNC and I went on to be appointed to its negotiating team, where I really am determining my own future. And here, too, I see the effort, determination and expertise going into convincing our sole paymaster that it really cannot afford to pay us anything less than we are worth, whatever its budgets might say.
All these roles are tough, and I have time for none of them, but the understanding I gain from being here and the feeling that I really am working to get the best for myself and everyone else somehow makes it worthwhile.
So what have I learnt? I've learnt that if you're not happy with something, change it. Stop the LPC bashing and instead get involved – go to an LPC meeting; read the news to find out how you could help the other professions struggling in this tough NHS; or even ask your regional representative a question. But whatever you do, don't do nothing – sitting back in the knowledge that it isn't your fault isn't going to get you or the rest of us anywhere useful.
Garry Myers is an independent pharmacy contractor and PSNC regional representative for the East Midlands and South Yorkshire