Letters, calls and emails: Is retail pharmacy really that boring?

Dear Editor

Some things, like secretaries of state for health, change more quickly than expected. Others change more slowly. The notion that chemists could and should double as GPs is definitely one of the latter (GP, 29 June).

It is almost 30 years since I was asked to lecture to a group of budding retail pharmacists on this topic. They were not best pleased when I suggested that a working knowledge of human anatomy, physiology and psychology added to a dash of clinical experience was necessary to manage so-called minor illness in the community.

So why do we keep on hearing this plea? Is it because a retail pharmacist's job is so dull and boring that any change in working practice has to be an improvement?

I accept that making up prescriptions, now 95 per cent typewritten and computer generated, is not intellectually demanding or emotionally rewarding.

However if someone wants to diagnose and treat illness, perhaps they should train as a doctor?

Before the modern pharmaceutical industry developed, doctors made up their own prescriptions and dispensed them to patients. In Northern Ireland at least, GP dispensing is not now allowed and dispensing practices have been abolished.

I am happy doctors should prescribe and chemists dispense but believe that if there is to be any blurring of these roles then it should be the doctors who dispense not chemists who prescribe.

Dr Lewis Miller, Belfast.

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