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Pharmacists will be used as cheap labour in GP surgeries

I have read recent correspondence relating to pharmacists working in GP surgeries and am unsurprised at the “negativity within our own profession” referred to by Claire Anderson (The Pharmaceutical Journal 2015;294:421).

Despite the initiative being launched by the Royal College of General Practitioners jointly with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, both representing the cream of each profession, I ask why and for what purpose pharmacists will serve in what surely is nowadays little more than a patient-sorting office exercise where, thankfully, little dispensing of medicines takes place.

I can understand the role probably sounds more preferable for some than working in a supermarket, for example, but pharmacy inherently has always been a high street domain and long may it remain so.

Rest assured the only time pharmacists will be welcome within surgeries is as cheap labour lackeys for GPs to exploit in order to make yet more money. This is the nature of this avaricious section of the medical profession nowadays. Is this what the profession wants?

Mike Brunt



Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20068390

Readers' comments (5)

  • Mike I am very surprised by your negativity. I have worked in a GP surgery as a pharmacy technician and one would hope I provided a valuable service not only with regards to counselling and medicines optimisation but also to generate income whilst the government continually removes payment for previously paid for services!. GP surgeries are businesses like any other High Street chemist who also get paid for each service they provide. Pharmacists in High Streets generate incomes therefore why can this not be reflected in a GP surgery!?

    As for the comment on 'thankfully little dispensing' I feel that patients appreciate having services in one place and having the Dr in the same building is more effective to deal with any problems!

    Maybe the surgeries won't need pharmacists but they do need qualified technicians with a good clinical background which I feel is lacking in some of the distance learning courses provided by Buttercups etc. I myself had plenty of input clinically that may otherwise not have been spotted by a level 2 dispenser without the same background in pharmacy (that's no disrespect to the level 2's). Even the basic pharmacy rules can be missed by a GP and dispenser ...for example prescribing certain anti-epileptics generically when they should be prescribed by brand!. Doctors are not foolproof prescribers and to have a pharmacist behind them ensuring safe prescribing is invaluable and allows GPs to concentrate on their referrals, minor ops, home visits, prescription signing, QOF targets etc etc etc the list goes on...! GPs don't sit there like fat cats waiting for the money to roll in! They work very hard under consistent pressure!

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  • Dear Mike,

    I think you may have completely misunderstood the whole point of this initiative. What the the RPS and RCGP are trying to do is to create an entire new role to ensure better use of medicines. From what I understand from the RPS, is that this "new" role will be to provide clinical pharmacy services within a GP practice. This role is more akin to the role of the hospital pharmacist: ensuring the safe, effective, evidence based and appropriate use of medicines. This role should be distinct from both the current GP practice role, which is more about effective use of the drug budget, and the community pharmacist role of managing minor ailments. Furthermore, pharmacists should be educating patients about their condition and about their medicines. We should also be managing long-term conditions and optimising patients' medicines.

    The potential this role has is phenomenal; we just need pharmacists to go and do it!

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  • Mike
    You are absolutely correct. I have known several pharmacists working, albeit part time,in GP surgeries in all cases they were independent pharmacists and in no case did their remuneration from the surgery cover their locum costs. They did it in order to keep the goodwill of the GP in at least two cases under pressure from the GP!

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  • Chijioke Agomo

    Regarding Mike Brunt's assertion that, 'pharmacists will be used as cheap labour' by GP surgeries (PJ 2015;294:561), even if this is correct, many pharmacists might still prefer it to the status quo.

    Mr. Mike Brunt will only need to read the recent Pharmacists' Defence Association, 'Insight magazine' (community pharmacy Spring 2015 edition) to realise how bad the situation is!

    Pharmacists working in GP surgeries creates a rare opportunity to enhance the career options available to pharmacists as well as their clinical, public health and collaboration skills.

    I therefore support Prof Claire Anderson's opinion on this (PJ 2015;294:421), and wish to use this opportunity to congratulate the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Royal College of General Practitioners for this bold initiative. This time, I'm in support of market forces to take its course!

    Finally, if there's nothing great in this initiative, Australians will not be considering it:

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  • Mike Brunt

    Let us be realistic. Yes, in the current unfortunate position pharmacists find themelves in I do understand that anything is better than the status quo of oversupply, which is something my generation never experienced but what will pharmacists find worthwhile to do in surgeries, of use to GPs, that would warrant their presence and remuneration?

    Thankfully, apart from areas of rurality, GP surgeries do not predominently dispense medicines in the UK which is where your expertise lies. Just a few greedy doctors took advantage of a loophole before it was belatedly closed, contrary to the spirit of the 100 hour exemption within the Regulations, and opened pharmacies in totally inappropriate locations devoid of the 24 / 7 footfall, which was at the heart of the misguided fast track exemption, adjacent to or within their surgeries but there are few of these as a proportion of the whole.

    In essence the concept will never I fear get off the ground because there is simply no fundamental economic need for it. Pie in the sky I think and just seeking a role once more that has no basis in reality.

    It is a pity we lost the Dickson Judgement, as it became known, which saw the Royal Albert Hall full of pharmacists in 1965 in which the Pharmaceutical Society made an attempt to control 'non professional business' (Multiples) by proposing that new pharmacies:
    be situated in physically distinct premises; confine their trading activity to the sale of pharmaceuticals, professional and 'traditional' chemist's goods (toiletries, cosmetics and photographic items). I was at that meeting and had we won it would have been the end of the likes of Boots as they were then nor yet would grocers have been allowed to own pharmacies today. The NHS Contract would have been with the pharmacist, as it should be, and no doubt only pharmacists would have been allowed to own pharmacies. Unlike the Continent we evolved wrongly unfortunately and the Dickson Judgement put the tin lid on the situation leaving it in the dreadful state we see today in community pharmacy.

    Mike Brunt

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