These commentaries by John Macgill represent his opinions only and not those of any Ettrickburn client.

Medicines shortage – a new prescription for an old problem

Ettrickburn commentary - Labour's plans to radically shake-up the pharma industry (part 2)

Ettrickburn commentary - Labour's plans to radically shake-up the pharma industry (part 1)

Cost of medicines falling

Three Nations Three Practices

Community Pharmacy Eliminating Hepatitis C

Homeless People make Glasgow

Heart Failure – we can get treatment right for everyone

Bundles of Safety

Community Pharmacy’s Leader in Scotland

CPO: On the Road to Achieving Excellence

Pharmacy technicians may become prescribers

Profile: Dr Norman Lannigan OBE

Profile: Jonathan Burton MBE

Profile: Clare Morrison MBE

Deep Dive Pharmacy

Mind the Gap - Diagnostic Skills for Pharamacists

Bundles of Safety

Supporting Excellence - Alison Strath Interview

2018 Pharmacy Forum Agenda Launched

Which Referendum to Choose

Three Perspectives on Pharmacy and Mental Health

Pharmacy and the New GP Contract

Bordering on Problematic

Recognised by the Queen and her community

VACANCY Reporter/Researcher: Health and Care Policy in Scotland

Prescribing in Mental Illness – A Practice Pharmacist’s Perspective

What Matters to You? Communication in Pharmacy

Prescribing in Mental Illness – A Patient’s Perspective

Focusing the Vision: Dr Rose Marie Parr on the new strategy for Scottish pharmacy

All the things that could go wrong - looking ahead to the SNP conference

Ask Once, Get Help Fast? Pharmacy and Mental Health

Automation and Delegation in Pharmacy: Understanding the Moving Parts

Pharmacy First in Forth Valley One Year On

Initiatives Highlight Potential of Community Pharmacy

Trying to concentrate on the day job

Health and the Local Elections – a strange silence

The Pharmacist Will See You Now – The Growth of GP Pharmacy

Montgomery’s Review – Dr Brian Montgomery answers questions on access to new medicines in Scotland

An afternoon with SMC

Pharmacists at SMC

SMC – are drug firms voting with their feet?

Radical Surgery on the Horizon for Scotland’s NHS

The Future’s Bright – in General Practice

Community Pharmacy in a Changing Environment

Disclosing payments to doctors – has Sir Malcolm done the pharma industry a favour?

Health and Care in the First Minister’s Programme for Government

CMO: Scotland’s pharmacists “absolutely ideally placed” to practice Realistic Medicine

Profile: Maree Todd – MSP and Pharmacist

Scottish Parliament Health Committee Work Programme

Scotland’s new NHS – a Summer of Speculation

Scotland’s New Health Committee

Two million voices in Scotland – is integration the big opportunity to listen?

Medicines – levelling the playing field

Key appointment raises the bar for health & social care partnerships

What did our new MSPs do before?

SMC says no then NICE says yes – three times

SNP promises single formulary and a review of Scotland’s NHS

More Generous than the CDF – but less transparent

Comparison of Funds: New Medicines v Cancer Drugs

Bonfire of the Boards? SNP signals NHS Review

A tribute to five retiring MSPs

New Medicines Review - Health Committee sends findings to Government

Medicines New & Old in the Scottish Cancer Strategy

Great Ambitions, Slow Progress – New Models of Care in Scotland

Scottish Minsters Demand Up-Front Medicine Price Negotiation

Opportunity and Disappointment: MSPs Investigate New Medicines Access

Scottish NHS Strategy calls for 'Realistic Medicine'

The Scottish Model of Value for Medicines: Taking Everything into Consideration

When SMC Says No: An Access to Medicines Lottery

Reviewing the Review: Access to New Medicines in Scotland

A day of psephology and kidology

Insulting the Lifesavers

Worthy of Mention – Health and Science in the Honours List

News Silence from North of the Border

A Christmas PPRS Present from Pharma

Wednesday, May 25, 2016: Medicines – levelling the playing field


This is my first commentary published by the Health and Social Care Academy following the ALLIANCE 2MExperts Conference

One delegate at the 2 Million Expert Voices conference expressed her frustration with the communications skills of clinicians: 

“If you don't know what's wrong with you it is hard to find out from doctors and surgeons. They have a language all of their own. They went to medical school for seven years to learn this language. To have any idea what they are saying I would have to spend a week with a pile of medical dictionaries. They need to tell me in my language not theirs.”

The workshop on medicines was about levelling the playing field between the patient and the many clinicians and scientists whose work is focused on helping them.

The clear message from delegates was that, while better informed advocates are better equipped to represent the views of patients, the clinicians and researchers themselves need to embrace the culture shift to patients knowing more, and to realise that the earlier they engage with its eventual users, the better their medicines or clinical services will ultimately be.

The grandly named European Patients’ Academy on Therapeutic Innovation (EUPATI) has a simple slogan: ‘No research about us without us’.

EUPPATI is a five-year partnership programme that has been bringing together patient organisations, academics, non-profits and medicines companies to give patients an informed voice in research decisions.

The ALLIANCE’s Irene Oldfather, Scotland’s representative on EUPATI, says detailed knowledge of a complex system is helping put patients at the core of medicines research and development: 

“By training patient experts, by which I mean patients themselves, carers, patient advocates and volunteers, we are trying to redress the balance.” 

Where EUPATI is about shaping future treatments, one programme that seeks to shift the balance of power for patients now is called SIMPATHY: Stimulating Innovative Management of Polypharmacy and Adherence in The Elderly. 

Polypharmacy is defined as the use of four or more different medicines by one patient. Adherence, also known as compliance, is the extent to which a patient takes the medicines prescribed to them in the way they should to get best results. 

Research shows half of elderly people with long term conditions do not take their medicines in the way intended. And the more medicines they take, the less well patients manage. 

The SIMPATHY project is about sharing best practice to change this. It’s not just a local problem. Ten organisations across Europe are involved, of which the Scottish Government is one. 

Central to managing medicines is the pharmacy profession and much of the workshop was devoted to discussing the Scottish Government’s ‘Prescription for Excellence’ policy ambition to release the untapped potential of pharmacists, particularly those working in the community. 

Pharmacists are the right people to answer questions about medicines (if they are asked) and to address concerns. Community pharmacists are increasingly the first port of call (no appointment necessary) for minor ailments, and they have the skills to recognise when something apparently minor may be something more serious. 

With four in ten people living with one or more long term conditions, the workshop heard that most of the time communication between healthcare providers and users does not require detailed knowledge and training – just a strong voice of, and for, users and a willingness of providers to listen.


Read all the blogs from the event at: