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As we know the NHS is constantly looking for ways to save money and become more efficient, here as someone who is passionate about Community Pharmacy, Ross Ferguson responds to Nigel Praities, editor of Pulse, (GP and primary care journal) who said in a recent leader, pharmacists are “brilliant at what they do”, but questions “the current position, where their skills are based in a building a few streets away, tucked behind shelves of corn plasters and toothpaste.” And he asked: “Why are we continuing to support this bizarre arrangement when everyone recognises that NHS services must work better together to improve care?”

Ross responded by saying, I know this may come as a shock, but GP practices aren’t the centre of the healthcare universe. We don’t judge the value of other services on their proximity to a building containing GPs.

Being “a few streets away” – shudder at the thought – from GP practices doesn’t make us less relevant, it makes us more relevant, because we are where the people are: council estates, rural locations, the centre of communities. It might not be glamorous, but people can turn up without an appointment, in a less formal environment, to get information, advice, empathy, support and much, much more.

Pharmacies are the beating hearts of their communities and we are valued by the people we help – just look at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) petition against the pharmacy cuts, which now has over 1 million signatures (patients somehow managed to navigate their way to these pharmacies despite them being a few streets away from GP practices – imagine that).

Yes, it’s time to break down the traditional barriers for the benefit of patients and the NHS, but that’s exactly why we can’t safely pack up all pharmacies and relocate them to GP practices. Do they really want an extra 1.6 million people trudging across their doorsteps every day?

We need to forge closer ties with GPs and other healthcare colleagues, continue to leverage the benefits of our location, and we do need to think differently to help save the NHS £22 billion, but patients need to be at the centre of this (something you fail to mention). Let’s start there instead of continuing to bleat about the recommissioning of the flu vaccination service (which is clearly valued by patients).

It isn’t about them and us anymore. Time to move the debate on. We need to work together, complete, and not compete. 


Ross has acted as a consultant in the development of Eye Drops Database and believes the same principal of using the wealth of skill and experience in Community Pharmacy can apply to Community Eye Care practices (High Street Opticians). These resources are readily available to patients, convenient in terms of locations and time availability and their practitioners are ready to help the individuals and healthcare in general. 

Ross Ferguson is an ex-contractor, he also has experience as a locum and an employee pharmacist. He is a pharmacy & healthcare writer, member of the RPS Faculty and has created a children’s medicines app, Kid-Dose