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A view from the PJ letters archive

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I recently stumbled across the PJ archive and promptly got lostsomewhere in a 1999 version of pharmacy as depicted by readers' letters.

It's freakish how similar the complaints of yesteryear areto todays.  One reader articulates theoverarching theme well, writing "week after week, on these very pages,pharmacists bemoan the lack of adequate remuneration and discuss the crisis ofconfidence within the profession." 

Another reader talks of concern over "the direction ofprogress with pharmacist access to electronic data through the NHSnet."  It's a concern that has since morphed intoapathy as pharmacists have come to ignore the promises of NHS IT projects.

Supply issues, similar to those experienced today, arementioned in many letters.  "I amincensed at the unbelievably chaotic shortages and extortionate prices ofgenerics" writes one reader.   Another continues in the same vein stating "thereis no way we can convince the mass of patients that we are offering aneffective service if we are unable to provide basic medicines."

The debate about supplying EHC spills over many issues as itsOTC availability was debated.  One readerwas "gravely concerned about the removal of the original conscience clause fromthe proposed new code of ethics."  It's adebate which will no doubt reappear as the GPhCreviews the conscience clause in the near future.

The Daily Mailrecently published anarticle criticising pharmacists for not checking exemptions.  One reader answers this criticism curtly: "pharmacistsare not DSS [Department of Social Security] officers or tax inspectors."  They also talk of how "a radical change tothe prescription charge would save millions of pounds."  It's a change we still call for.

Which?, and theirpharmacy investigations that continue to this day, get a mention after theyfound "80% of diagnostic tests carried out at pharmacies are incorrectlyinterpreted or result in inappropriate advice being given to patients."  This bears some semblance to GPs complaints ofpharmacy screening leading to unnecessary referrals.

You'll be glad to know the profession has progressed on someissues.  The idea of technicians becomingregistered was unfavourable to some with fears it would "impose intolerablestrains within the Society's structure and thus eventually undermine itsintegrity."  We now know these fears wereunfounded.

Regarding then nascent pharmacy websites, one reader speaksof the need for "proper control and policing of sites ... with accreditation fromthe Royal Pharmaceutical Society."  It'sa system that's now in place.

Talking of EHC, one reader questioned whether pharmacies are"suitable places for a woman to be interviewed, in depth, about her most recentsexual encounter."  The answer would nowbe yes as the vast majority have consultation rooms.

We have also solved the workforce problem described as "moderateto severe difficulties in recruiting and retaining pharmacists."  Unfortunately we've replaced it with anentirely opposite workforce problem.  Thesolution suggested then, "that we need more pharmacy graduates produced fromschools of pharmacy", is perhaps a little less appropriate now.  

I had planned to end this blog commenting about the insightPJ letters provide.  But a reader beat meto it.  They talk of devising "a variantof the ancients' technique of predicting the future by examining the entrailsof goats or the arrangement of a set of randomly thrown sticks.  It consists of random scrutiny of the letterspage of the PJ."

They then accurately predict a future oversupply ofpharmacists, albeit from those emigrating from Europe.  Let's hope the second of the reader'spredictions, that "the average fee of a community locum pharmacist will go downto £3.80 per hour", turns out to be less accurate.

Follow me on Twitter @RanveerBassey

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