The RCGP predicts that on some 67 million occasions this year, patients will have to wait for more than a week to get an appointment with their doctor. I’ll bet that a couple of those will be mine – but I’d still rather see a doctor than a pharmacist.

 By Tom Jamison, Able Magazine editor

An “army” of pharmacists could help GP practices across England, according to plans suggested by leading health professionals.

Depending on what sort of pharmacist ‘sets up’ in your GP’s surgery will depend on which of the following two good reasons you’ll select for thinking that this is a bad idea.

Reason One – ‘Nervous Nerys’.

The idea is for pharmacists to attend to patients with common ailments directly and not setting up shops within surgeries. Apparently, pharmacists would provide health advice and be able to prescribe medication once extra training had been completed.

Yet again, where it comes to my health, I’m having another acute attack of ‘Is it just me?’ In my experience, pharmacists can be pretty resistant about taking things into their own hands. Have you, by any chance, ever been accidentally prescribed and ‘accuhaler’ instead of an ‘evohaler’? (They are very simple and similar devices for delivering medicine, used frequently by people with asthma.)

Anyway, I have to say that far from taking the initiative, the pharmacist became an immediate ‘jobsworth’ who refused to make the swap, even though my preferred inhaler holds exactly the same strength of drug and is made by exactly the same manufacturer. I have to ask that where a case requires a new prescription, will the pharmacists play ball or shrink away from the task?

Charities have welcomed the move but say patient safety must be a priority and I completely agree with that, but frankly, I think we’re a way off pharmacists being willing to prescribe drugs to patients at all – let alone patients being frightened of their judgement.

Reason Two – ‘Dr Del Boy’.

Of course, the other direction where this might turn is equally objectionable. Given the extra training and prescriptive power, my feeling is that the already pricey visit to the doctor (and subsequently, the pharmacist) may well be about to get a bit quicker, but become at least a little more expensive. What pharmacist is going to be able to resist the temptation to make a few quid? They’ll surely be licking their lips at being invited to literally ‘sign their own cheques’. Who’s going to stop them?

The plans could mean that when patients call their surgeries they are offered an appointment with a pharmacist, GP or practice nurse – with those who opt to see the pharmacist able to obtain advice about their symptoms and discuss troubling side-effects of medication, as well as getting help with their repeat prescriptions.

People with long-term conditions are, we’re told, likely to benefit the most under the plans, with those on multiple medications getting help in streamlining their daily drugs. I see things differently and have actually been ‘locked out’ of the repeat prescription system on occasions until I’ve been able to get an appointment with my doctor for a so called ‘medicine review’. If this is all going to change, it’ll have to be a dramatic change, or it won’t be worth changing at all. (And we haven’t even mentioned prescribing antibiotics yet.)

And by the way, if there’s still such an over-supply of skilled pharmacists who could ease this burden as the ‘experts’ argue. Why do I have to wait so long when I’m in the actual pharmacy?