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Last in line?

Ken Stafford
A Consultant Pharmacist Perspective

Issue 79: February 2009
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Two pieces of pharmacy news cross my desk this week that leads me to a belief that, unless pharmacy shows a willingness to be involved, the profession will always be forgotten when decisions about health are made.
The first topic I have written about previously, namely the reluctance of community pharmacists to write certificates authorizing a few days off work for patients.
I haven’t worked in community pharmacy for a number of years but I cannot see that pharmacists will have lost their role as first line health care providers.

I am sure that the average community pharmacist still provides advice to patients (customers or clients) who do not have anything seriously wrong with them – they merely need to spend a few days resting at home to make a complete recovery. 
I gave this “prescription” on a regular basis only to be told “I can’t take any time off without a certificate” and having to sell something for “the flu”, or similar. 
I would have been quite happy to supply the necessary documentation provided the diagnosis fell within my area of expertise. Why then are pharmacists loath to fulfill this relatively simple role?

The second piece appeared in the WA Pharmaceutical Council’s newsletter where the Council President asked why pharmacists seemed unwilling to offer themselves as members of the State’s Health Network.
This body acts in an advisory capacity for the state government in its decision making role. Members include representatives from all of the health professions, with the notable exception of pharmacists.
If pharmacy is unwilling to be party to the decision making process is it any wonder that the profession appears to be ignored when health care programs are formulated?

As I’ve written before – being seen as the quiet achievers of the healthcare industry is all well and good but if we are unwilling to show any gumption by standing up for pharmacy we will continue to be forgotten by the decision makers.

Sure, the media appear to consider that the Pharmacy Guild does a good job lobbying on behalf of the profession but it is primarily concerned in supporting its constituency (owners) rather than the profession as a whole.
Pharmacists must also accept that the Guild cannot be the sole voice of community pharmacy and must be willing to grasp every opportunity to promote itself.

Surely, if professions such as physiotherapy and nursing are willing to go that little bit further in promoting themselves, pharmacy can do likewise.
We must either show willingness to be part of the process or we will continue to be last in lined.

(Note, in relation to the Health Network I have been involved to an extent for some years, so I can be said to be putting my money where my mouth is concerned).

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