Hope in the darkest hours

22 Feb 2018

Many pharmacists will have experienced the past twelve months as their toughest ever year. It has certainly been my own darkest hour as a pharmacy owner.

To help me maintain a positive outlook, I have sometimes brought to mind the phrase, “the night is always darkest just before the dawn”. This is more than just a platitude. There is an underpinning logic to the notion that our sector can win through and remain the beating heart of pharmaceutical care in the community for decades to come. Community pharmacies have unique strengths and deliver immensely valuable benefits to patients, communities and the NHS. This is no guarantee of long term survival, but it’s a pretty good start! Meanwhile, the NHS is facing an access crisis and community pharmacy, as the most accessible part of the health service, must surely be part of the long term solution. The NHS is being forced to think more imaginatively about where care is delivered, and this gives pharmacies an opportunity to develop as the front door to health. So, here’s another famous phrase you might want to think about: “nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come”.

A speck of light amidst the current gloom is Sue Sharpe’s recent report that PSNC is experiencing “dialogue and responsiveness [with government] that we simply didn’t see in 2016 and the first half of 2017”.  I’m happy to report that I too am sensing a new appetite for dialogue, having been in talks with Ministers and senior officials over recent months. In particular, we have received a warm welcome to our proposition that community pharmacy can play a profound role in easing the NHS access crisis, which has hit a new level of intensity this winter.

As a sector, we still have choppy waters ahead of us, but the NPA is absolutely determined to help guide independents safely through the storm. On the other side is not the community pharmacy world we knew 10, five or even two years ago. We cannot look backwards to a ‘golden age,’ indeed we must believe that the best years are still ahead.

It can be done, so long as we stick together, take the courageous decisions, look to the far future but never forget the historic foundations on which the sector’s business model rests, and upon which our patients rely.

Hope is a powerful asset in difficult times, buttressed by courage, determination and a clear idea of where you want to get to.

The current NPA Board is coming to the end of its term. As chairman, I have done my best to give hope to the independent sector and if that’s part of my legacy I will be very well pleased.

Ian Strachan, NPA Chairman