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Pessimist or realist?

I am writing in response to the Leading article in The Pharmaceutical Journal (2014;292:472) entitled “Excellence prescribed”. This refers to the evidence and subsequent roundtable session held by the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee on 29 April 2014.

I would encourage all members of pharmacy teams, especially those who work in the community, to watch the session to hear and see the tone and content of any statements. This can be found at http://bit.ly/1gyOaTq. Alternatively the committee’s report can be read at http://bit.ly/SWDucy.

On reviewing this, people can judge whether it was community pharmacy representatives whose “views may have appeared pessimistic”.

Consider the analogy of a bystander at the road’s edge watching someone running up the middle of the road. He or she offers advice: “You don’t want to do that, there’s a bus coming.” After the accident, what role is the bystander: a pessimist or realist?

I use this analogy because this point was raised by many of the elected members and can be seen by their persistent questioning of the governance structure being put in place since it does indeed exclude the major stakeholder that provides the sector of the profession expected to deliver on “Prescription for excellence” (PfE).

A direct quote from the committee before any roundtable discussion took place was: “I have to say with a mounting sense that there is a lack of enthusiasm. If something has potential to turn out to be a complete shambles and a muddle, it invariably does in my experience.”

Further questioning followed on workforce planning and the topics of finance and economics were raised by the convenor. This went as far as the statement “both witnesses have job titles that reflect financial responsibilities” being made; and the reply from Scottish Government chief pharmaceutical officer Bill Scott reassuringly stated that the “chief finance officer … would not let us do anything without ensuring that we had gone into the economics and finance of it”. I could give many more direct quotes from the Health and Sports Committee made by elected members and NHS colleagues alike regarding the positive contribution community pharmacy owners have made over the past 10 years to NHS service delivery and the advancement of pharmaceutical care.

I was therefore surprised and disappointed that the final conclusion that the Leading article inferred “that moves to protect the traditional dispensing role” were being made and that “legitimate concerns need to be addressed. But they must not be allowed to derail PfE.”

PfE is the largest change programme I have seen in my pharmacy career and change of such magnitude would normally have those at the heart of its delivery fully involved at all levels, including at strategic groups. Who knows it might be the proposed approach that may cause any derailment.

Of course there will be colleagues reading this who believe my response is fuelled by a vested interest. Before arriving at that conclusion they should watch the recording, read the transcript and then decide for themselves.

Harry McQuillan

Chief Executive Officer

Community Pharmacy Scotland

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11138536

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