Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Pharmacy politicians - an unlikely coalition

Those who know me from politics know that I am not the biggest fan of the coalition government and, a string of closely fought elections has left me with a slightly jaundiced view of Tories although there were a few Tory parliamentarians who I regard as friends. 

So, I wondered how I would get on with newly elected board member Sibby Buckle who has stood as a parliamentary candidate for the Conservatives at Westminster and at European level. At first glance she looked quite daunting - one of those amazing women who looks like she gets out of bed with every hair immaculately in place but closer acquaintance, helped by a glass of wine or two revealed that we think alike on a lot of issues and she also has a great sense of humour and a fierce streak of independence.

Most importantly, we were of like mind over the first paper that was presented to the EPB - which dealt with the subject of pharmacy presence at party conference. The broad analysis of strategy was OK - in short the RPS now joins in with an organisation called the Health Hotel. This means that we can organise a joint fringe with other Health Hotel partners, use the HH area as a base for lobbying and attend a number of HH events such as a round table event and a late evening reception which is one of the best health networking events around. 

Unfortunately last year the RPS did not take advantage of the opportunity to organise a Fringe meeting and was conspicuous by its absence at the reception. I do not know whether any lobbying took place but I do know that NPA and PSNC were there and I introduced pharmacists to our health Minister, Paul Burstow, and to a number of MPs and Peers who had health-related interests. I compared notes with Sibby only to discover that this level of inactivity also applied to the Conservative Party Conference. 

We were also unimpressed that the recommendation in the paper was to take a second member of staff to conference because we couldn't think what they were going to do. We had both independently arrived at the conclusion that as we had an EPB board member going to two of the conferences anyway that it made sense to use us and save the Society a bit of money. We were fairly sure that there must be a pharmacist somewhere who is planning to attend the Labour Party conference. 

Another board member ventured the opinion that other EPB members would also have the necessary skills to attend but I think he missed the basic point about cost saving because we were attending anyway. 

Leading on from this Sibby had an excellent idea about forming a group of pharmacists who had an interest in politics and public affairs so that we could make the most of their skills. The next step is to make sure that the idea bears fruit and is not quietly buried. 

It was interesting to me that the first subject on the agenda involved politics but what interested me more was the very different attitude that Sibby and I brought to the table. We were able to challenge the status quo because we know the system inside out and we felt justified in pushing for more to be done. I am really looking forward to doing more work with her in the future. 

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