How many of us rely on NHS allopathic medicines at some time in our life to treat toothache, earache, a stomach bug or a sore throat? Simple ailments will often require a visit to your local pharmacy. We have become used to just trotting down the street to find a lotion or potion that will give us some relief.
However, those days appear to be disappearing, as do the products we have become so reliant on. While we’ve been seeing the disappearance of banks and retail stores in our high streets, there is no shortage of pharmacies. What does the future hold for our local pharmacy?
A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
Assuming we could time-travel, what would we see if we took a tiny step back in time? Those living a mere century ago would never believe the life we live today. My interview with Jane Placca, a qualified herbal practitioner, has proved a big hit with our audience and has lit the flame of curiosity within me to find out more about herbal medicine and why allopathic medicine appears to dominate the Western world.
Prior to ‘pharmacists’, apothecaries worked alongside priests and physicians. An apothecary was someone who mixed and dispensed medicine to doctors but would also offer health advice to their patients. Perhaps, with the advent of ‘community pharmacists’, we are living in times more familiar to those who lived a hundred years ago? Today, we use the name ‘pharmacist’ for a role that existed in the past. This week, I would like to look at how pharmacies have changed.
100 years ago, if you were to go into your local ‘pharmacy’ (apothecary), you would be faced with many beautiful bottles lined up on wood shelving units, filled with different solutions and exuding an array of smells. Most of these medicines were made from scratch in a back room. The owner sourced local ingredients, weighing them up, mixing and grinding them using a good old-fashioned pestle and mortar.
It struck me that still, in 2023, qualified medical herbal practitioners work in a similar way to those old apothecaries. Perhaps the old ways were the best ways. What has changed?
Modern pharmacists buy medication from wholesalers, often importing them from other countries. Hedley Rees, the world expert on pharmaceutical distribution and manufacturing, takes us on the journey of how a medicine is created.
Today’s pharmacists enjoy new roles within public health. As well as offering advice and treatment for some ailments, they can also refer you for a hospital or GP appointment. UK Column has shone the spotlight on the advent of ‘community pharmacists’, who have become integrated with NHS services. With the aim of reducing pressure on the NHS, pharmacists have had to develop their knowledge and skills, which far extends their training in medicines. Are we expecting too much from them?
During the Covid–19 period, GP surgeries, opticians and dentists were forced to suspend face-to-face consultations, so many patients were forced to consult their local pharmacies for face-to-face help. Thus pharmacists became the shop window or front door for primary health. How many of us remember standing outside the pharmacist/chemist during lockup, queuing in the rain, surrounded by soggy masked individuals?
Covid was apparently safe, provided only two customers were in the store at the same time. Three or more and you were in danger. At the time, I remember wondering how many of the elderly individuals who were outside queuing would then go home in a worse condition than they had arrived in.
Community pharmacists are here to stay and their role is set to change in order to keep up with the new transformed ‘NHS’. Have you noticed a private consultation room in your pharmacy? Have you noticed pharmacies moving into your GP practice? There appear to be more pharmacists than GPs these days.
Pharmacists can now access parts of your digital electronic patient records. Those good old-fashioned paper prescriptions are being phased out. Digital, it seems, is the way forward, and online ordering will become the new ‘normal’.
The market is full of expensive-looking gadgets and gizmos to tell you how you are feeling. There are so many, but I wonder if any of us understand their reliability—especially as we are encouraged to check our app or phone to ensure our body is performing satisfactorily. The mirror apparently does lie. Who will need a health service in the future?
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) took over from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in 2010. It claims to be an independent regulator of the pharmacy profession in England, Scotland and Wales. However, take a quick glance at the GPhC Committee members and you may raise an eyebrow or two—it doesn’t take long to find connections with the World Health Organisation and the United Nations. Sound familiar?
So what can you expect from a pharmacist, and what services do they offer? You may be surprised. Not only will the pharmacist give you your medication, they will also offer you vaccinations, mental health consultations and sexual health consultations. They will give advice and treatment to stop smoking, and they’ll also give healthy living advice (what do pharmacists know about healthy living? Most people who consult them are in poor health).
Far from just picking up a cold remedy or some plasters, a trip to the pharmacy can be quite an adventure. There’s always a friendly ear to help you manage long-term conditions, treat minor ailments and even prescribe some medicines without a doctor’s instructions. What power! It has become far too difficult to access a GP but much easier to access a pharmacist, I am noticing a big shift in balance. Who needs a doctor now?
It takes a minimum of five years to train in the use of medicines to qualify as a pharmacist in the UK: four years at university followed by another year in practice before qualifying. But pharmacists are assisted by a big support team. Do you know whom you are seeing, though? It’s a bigger team than you might expect.
I spoke to a pharmacist and asked who was in their team. Please note, there are subtle differences between them all. For ease of reference, a community pharmacist is found within the community, whereas a consultant pharmacist will have completed an ‘advanced’ training.
Community Pharmacists – oversee safe dispensing, give advice, provide public health information to customers and signpost them to other medical professionals.
Pharmacy Technicians – skilled members of the team who are able to prepare, dispense, supply and issue a wide range of medicines to patients.
Accredited checking technicians (ACT) – staff who are trained to undertake accuracy checks of dispensed medicines. If a pharmacist is working with an ACT, it means the pharmacist is not required to oversee the final check.
Dispensing Assistants – those who support the pharmacists in dispensing prescriptions and managing stock.
Medicine counter assistants – those who link the customer to the pharmacist and can provide lifestyle support, including behaviour changes such as exercise and good diet.
Did you know we can even ask for a Healthy Living Champion? These are members of the pharmacy team who are specially trained to provide health and ‘wellbeing’ advice.
Here are some of the common questions being asked of pharmacists:
Q. Why has my medicine name changed and why does it looks different?
A. There are two names to each drug.
- A generic name – the name given to the active ingredient in the medicine, which you’ll find in the patient information leaflet.
- A brand name – created by the pharmaceutical company who created it, hence the different packaging or colour of pill.
Q. Why am I having trouble getting my prescription or being told there are delays in distribution?
A. There would appear to be a shortage of stock of some medicines, as we have reported on UK Column News. A pharmacist will often have to try to source medicines from other stores or a different manufacturer. If they are not able to find your medicine, they will return your prescription and suggest you source it from other pharmacies out of area. Manufacturing problems, transportation delays or factors that affect global demand will often be the reasons and are what we are seeing now.
Q. I am scared of being overheard; is there anywhere private I can speak to someone? And if so, who?
A. Most pharmacies now have a private consultation room where you can speak to a trained professional—more than likely the pharmacist on duty, but please don’t be afraid to ask the question, ‘Who are you’?
Q. What is the Yellow Card scheme?
A. Good question! The Yellow Card scheme is meant to collect and monitor information on suspected safety concerns involving medicines or medical devices. Who has heard of the MHRA? I would hope most reading this will have by now, since it is one of my favourite topics. Sadly, not all local pharmacists are even aware that many of the medicines they are dispensing are Black Triangle medications, let alone informing patients of the existence of Yellow Card scheme. Please take time to read all patient information leaflets.
Thanks to Alex Thomson for sending me this very timely article from the Mail Online. It appears community pharmacists will no doubt be getting access to more information and data, which in turn becomes power. The CEO of the major British chemists’ chain Boots, Sebastian James, is calling for more access to patients’ medical data. Acknowledging that many cannot get access to a GP, he wants ministers to give pharmacists the green light to take on some of their work.
While that may sound sensible to some, to others, such as myself, it leads me to more questions than answers. Who will have permission to read our medical notes, and who might have permission to write in them? Just to be clear, your medical records include:
- your name, age and address;
- diagnosis of any medical or mental health condition;
- test results;
- consultant referrals;
- hospital admissions;
- and lifestyle information.
Boots appears to want to take over our care by offering annual checks, mental health management, pain management and a plethora of advice on multiple health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Haven’t they come a long way from the skincare products and toilet rolls that generations of us associated Boots with? More on Boots Walgreen (the clue’s in the name) another time. Suffice to say their loyalty ‘Advantage Card’ scheme, of which there are 15 million users, may have been taken advantage of.
Finally, on the subject of prescriptions, UK Column News has been reporting on a potential rise in prescription charges in England for over a year. As usual, we knew seemingly before anyone else. The latest rise of 30 pence takes the price of each item from £9.35 to £9.65. However, I predict that as older people are being encouraged to return to work, prescription charges—normally free for the over-60s—will now fall in line with the new UK pensionable age of 66 years. The jury is still out, but watch this space and remember where you heard it first.
Ambulance 999—‘I got a text’
No, this is not the original sense of the ‘I got a text’ catchphrase made famous by the boys and girls appearing on ITV2’s Love Island. This is our NHS Ambulance Service. Will you be regarded as a high priority if you call 999? We have been reporting on UK Column News for many months that in some areas you have to be dead in order to be classified as priority 1, since in reality this classification means ‘cardiac arrest, patient not breathing’. In some areas, even if you are suffering from a stroke or a heart attack, you are classified as priority 2, not 1.
Now, however, if you are deemed a low priority, you may simply get a text. Because of a shortage of crews, six out of ten ambulance trusts have had to admit they’ll SMS a patient if they are unavailable. Apparently, this is only done in times of extreme pressure; however, the Ambulance Service appears to be under extreme pressure essentially nationwide, so will this be the new ‘normal’? What are we to do if we receive a text to say no-one is coming? Do we haul our loved ones or ourselves into a taxi? Bus? Train? Or do we simply suffer in silence?
Heart attack warning bracelets
Another device to tell you how your body is working, or not working, is currently being developed. Tropsensor, a smart hi-tech bracelet containing sensors, will be able to detect heart attacks in minutes. By detecting raised levels of troponin in sweat, it will allow a patient will know early on that they may be experiencing a heart attack. Usually, in a hospital setting, patients would have to rely on a blood test to confirm a heart attack. This test can take hours and that diagnostic delay risks the heart becoming further damaged.
Every second counts. Or does it? We have reported many times, and again in the section above in this blog, that heart attacks in many areas are considered priority 2 for ambulance dispatch. So even if you know you are having a heart attack early, what then? Drive? Panic? Will you even be considered a risk significant enough to warrant help if you aren’t actually in a state of collapse…yet? Another story, another device—and, yet again, more questions than answers.
Personally, if I were attached to a device that may sound an alarm at any second to inform me that part of my heart muscle was in danger of dying and that I may experience excruciating pain at any minute, this would most likely raise my blood pressure, let alone troponin levels.
MHRA gets £10 million boost from Jeremy Hunt
Dame June Raine must be rubbing her hands in glee. By the time you are reading this week’s blog, I will have attended the latest MHRA board meeting, no doubt to witness more love-ins and self-congratulatory remarks. In the meantime, Jeremy Hunt, Chancellor (British finance minister)—the very same Jeremy Hunt that promised me personally in a video phone-in that he would look into vaccine serious events but never did—has graciously donated more money to what I would describe as an organisation riddled in corruption and conflicts of interest.
The windfall of £10 million will be used to build alliances with other regulator watchdogs so that the UK doesn’t fall behind in the scrum to accelerate the approvals for more new experimental drugs. In simple terms, this means that all new drugs may automatically be signed off for the UK public, as we enter new partnerships with other international medicine regulators. This sounds to me as though the MHRA may be on course to realising its ambition to become a ‘super regulator’.
Before we all get too excited, please remember Sir Patrick Vallance’s and Melinda Gates’ 100 Day Mission. Thanks to them, after less than four months from the get-go, any new, untested, experimental medicine could be in our arms, down our throats or up our noses. Does that fill you with confidence?
By the time this blog is published, UK Column will have brought you an exclusive, so please refer to the UK Column News broadcast of 22 March 2023 (available from mid-afternoon) in which Hedley Rees, a world expert in the manufacturing and distribution of medicines, will be revealing some startling discoveries.
Gonorrhoea cases on the rise
The UK Health Security Agency reports that the diagnoses of gonorrhoea from January to September 2022 have risen from 19% to 21% compared to the same period in 2019. Why are these cases on the rise? The World Health Organisation is reported as having identified a multi-drug-resistant gonorrhoea infection.
Am I getting a whiff of ‘antimicrobial resistance’ concern? It appears I am, and that the well-known antibiotics such as benzylpenicillin, tetracycline, ciprofloxacin, cefixime are not as effective now. Do you think there may be a new—or perhaps a repurposed—vaccine already winging its way down the pipeline? Look no further.
Is it me, or is the agenda getting rather predictable?
Oxfam ‘woke’ guidance recommends banning the word ‘mother’!
Last Sunday was Mothering Sunday, I hope all you mums, grannies and great-grannies had a lovely day with your nearest and dearest. But how many more Mothering Sundays will you enjoy before it’s banned?
As if the world couldn’t get madder, Oxfam wins a gold medal this week for wokedom. A 92-page report has got my blood boiling this week. If anyone wishes to question my gender or asks me what I wish to be referred to, they are likely to receive short shrift back. How dare anyone ask me who I am; are they inferring that I may be male? Are they saying I look or talk like a man? Why aren’t those of us who are not part of the LBGTQ community not speaking up? Oops, sorry, I need to correct myself: it is no longer LBGTQ, according to Oxfam, it is LGBTQIA+.
I am a woman. I am not a ‘cis’ woman. I am also a mother and a grandmother who happens to be very proud of both titles, thank you. I believe this is the first step into a world of genderless living beings. I am loath to utter the word ‘human’. Oxfam is keen to reassure those objecting that this obnoxious document is ‘guidance’ only. So why write it? What right does Oxfam have to write any guidance? Who are they? Are they without reproach? This article may jog your memory.
How many will now boycott Oxfam charity shops and donation requests? I have, for many years.
Apologies for any confusion I may have caused. In last week’s news I was describing how the MHRA consider a 1:10,000 risk of serious adverse reaction serious enough to withdraw medicines containing Pholcodine from our pharmacy shelves. According to their own criteria a less than 1:10,000 risk is tiny.
According to MHRA data there have already been over 500,000 reports of serious adverse reactions after the Covid-19 injection. Academic papers report the risk ratio of the Covid-19 vaccine as being much greater than 1:10,000, but it is still in circulation. Why? We will be exploring this data further with Professor Norman Fenton in the very near future. Apologies for any misunderstanding. Question everything, us included. We can’t all get everything right all of the time, but when we don’t, we try to put it right. Can the same be said about the mainstream media?
As ever, I urge everyone to enjoy every day and be the very best person you can. Whilst everything around us appears to collapse, we must ensure we don’t follow suit under the weight of anxiety, fear and the continuing cascade of doom and gloom. Happiness is infectious and is free at the point of source. Never forget who you are or what you stand for. The truth will out.
Until next week,
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32