The children wait, wide-eyed, staring expectantly towards the sky as darkness falls and the Christmas lights in trees and windows start to twinkle. Eventually, after what seems like an age, they spy the man they’ve been waiting for – a jolly, red-faced fellow in a snow-white coat. He pulls up outside their home and makes his way up the garden path.
“Mum! Dad!” cry the children. “He’s here at last!”
The family rushes to the door, ready to regale the visitor they’ve long been expecting. “Where the bloody hell have you been? We clicked for Emma’s inhalers days ago!”
The pharmacist puts down his sack of deliveries, his cheeks a deep shade of scarlet thanks to the hours he has spent rushing from patient to patient. “I’m sorry, Mrs Jones, ever since the Department of Health made my pharmacy unviable in 2016 it has been chaos.”
“I read about that,” says Mr Jones. “The Competition and Markets Authority said deregulating the number and location of pharmacies would save patients time and money.” The pharmacist smiles. “Like deregulating railways and power companies has saved customers time and money? They’ve forgotten why 100-hour exemptions were scrapped.”
The pharmacist rummages around in his sack of prescriptions. “Now, what have we got in here for young Miss Jones?” Emma stands waiting, breathless, for her parcel. “Hurry up!” says Mr Jones. “Emma has been breathless for days waiting for her inhalers.”
“OK, OK,” says the pharmacist. “I’m making a list, I’m checking it twice, I’m going to find out who’s naughty or Nice.” “Why do you have to check it twice?” asks Mrs Jones. “Ho, ho, ho,” chuckles the pharmacist. “Since the BNF reformatted, it has been much harder to tell which children meet the Nice criteria,” he says.
“Aah, here we are!” He pulls out a bag of inhalers and a spacer device and hands them to Emma. “But I don’t understand,” says Mr Jones. “Why are you making the deliveries, rather than a driver or one of your pharmacy assistants?”
“Well, with all those extra pharmacy students, our rates of pay dropped so low that it was cheaper to employ a pharmacist than a driver,” retorts the pharmacist. “It was all done back in the Victorian era, in 2016.”
“You know, 2016 wasn’t the Victorian era,” interrupts Mrs Jones. The pharmacist looks at her with wide eyes. “It was for us pharmacists!” he snorts. “We were made to work long hours in cramped conditions, with little regard for our welfare. The bosses ruled with an iron fist, and if you complained you were out. Then came our industrial revolution that brought hub-and-spoke dispensing and online delivery-to-door and click-and-collect pharmacy services.” The parents look blankly at the pharmacist. “What’s wrong with that?” they say in unison.
Suddenly, Emma pipes up. “Mummy, my inhaler won’t fit.” They turn and look at the pharmacist. “Sorry,” he says with a shrug, “if we were in the pharmacy we could sort this out right away. But I guess you’ll just have to click again. Merry Christmas!”