Healthcare spin

PUBLISHED: 10:19 30 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:43 06 May 2010

SIR, —As the owner of a group of local pharmacies I can no longer stand by and allow the self-congratulatory rhetoric of the Hertfordshire Primary Care Trusts to go unchallenged. These Mugabe-esque organisations employ a level of spin that would make any

SIR, -As the owner of a group of local pharmacies I can no longer stand by and allow the self-congratulatory rhetoric of the Hertfordshire Primary Care Trusts to go unchallenged. These Mugabe-esque organisations employ a level of spin that would make any self-respecting political party blush.

In the Herts Advertiser (October 9) they were congratulating themselves on clearing £43 million of debt. They carefully omitted to mention how much additional debt has been written-off over recent decades.

In the past I have done a lot of work with the local PCTs. For example I was the PCT prescribing lead around the year 2000. They make much of getting the drugs bill under control. What they don't mention is that by working collaboratively with local GPs in Harpenden and St Albans we balanced the prescribing budget back then. Despite these successes and the pleasure of working with local GPs, I found the culture of the PCT impossible and resigned my position

Another thing they fail to mention is that the PCT benefited from huge windfall savings in this year's prescribing budget simply because the Government forced the drug companies to reduce their prices to the NHS.

All this historical overspending could be forgiven if the PCTs had provided exceptional care to local people. But the truth is they haven't. If my ratings had gone from "weak" to "fair" I would certainly not be shouting about it.

Up and down the country other PCTs are working with local community pharmacists like me to provide extra services for patients and the public. A prime example is treating common ailments. Research shows that up to one-third of GP appointments are for minor, self-limiting illnesses which can be dealt with successfully in a community pharmacy. Patients love the service because no appointment is necessary, pharmacists are easy to access and we are open long hours. It frees up GPs' time so they can concentrate on the patients who really need their expertise and, better still, it has been proven to save the NHS money.

Pharmacists can help too with reducing strokes and heart attacks and we can most definitely help with reducing unwanted pregnancies. All these are areas in which, according to your report (Herts Advertiser, October 23) the PCTs are failing to meet their targets. Community pharmacists are successfully helping local PCTs meet their targets in these and other crucial areas of health elsewhere in the UK but not here.

You might have read this week that the Government wants small businesses, such as mine, to be paid on time.

It might shock you to learn that the PCT is many months behind with its payments to me on, for example, important services like helping smokers quit.

I raised some of these issues some months ago at a House of Commons meeting on Polyclinics. As a result, the chief executive of East and North Herts PCT, Ann Walker, made an appointment to phone me. I wanted a face-to-face meeting with her but I'm apparently not important enough.

Needless to say, despite making a definite arrangement, the time for the call came and went and she failed to phone. Months later, and despite several reminders, she has still failed to call. With that kind of attitude from its senior management, no wonder the PCTs are failing local people. I think it is important people are made aware of the situation. When all else fails, people power should be entrusted to make the difference.

GRAHAM PHILLIPS,

Manor Pharmacy Group.

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