Pharmacy has lost a hero.
Dilip Joshi is a well-loved, hard-working consummate professional and a respected ambassador. He knew his Granny Smiths from his pyrus and in all the years I worked with him, he’s always respected diversity, upheld equality, was humble and genuine. He never put a foot wrong and was a pleasure to work with.
Yet he lost an election. I’m also in an election. Being an elected representative is a humbling experience and a never-ending lesson. At times it’s like sitting on a grenade with the pin taken out because it’s easy to sneer, ridicule and make fun of honest folk trying to a tricky job.
Your mistakes are in the public eye, every time you write something you risk making yourself look like a fool and the longer you’re in place the more you’re a target. Politics is very like a Peking opera!
I’m not a politician, I have a political role. It’s not full time, there’s no support, no perks, it’s not a career, you don’t earn a living and it’s merely an extension of your pharmacy service like prescribing or vaccinating, etc. There’s no time limit to the commitment, you can be up all night preparing, travelling odd hours, you disadvantage your pharmacy and risk losing patients and services to competitors when you are away.
There’s a set rate for attendance that’s actually below any locum rate. Yet as in pharmacy, you throw yourself into it because you love it and you give it everything.
People often ask how you carry the strain. But it isn’t a strain when there are prizes to be won – the chance to serve and then a sense of achievement at having done so.
The excitement and the adrenaline turn the pressure into a challenge and a sense of purpose that drives you on. Sure, it’s a tough grind. You leave meetings depressed and sometimes you feel rigor mortis creeping in from your neck upwards. And, just as being in the NHS, it’s a thankless task.
Our elected role is to find answers and deliverable expectations. Stating a fresh face or a new voice is the panacea is deluded and paralogising, as are aspirational election statements which promise the world. They’re either hopelessly naive or deliberately misleading.
Fresh faces must also come with workable solutions and competencies because here’s the rub. It takes experience and many skills to be able to address the cynics and the enthusiasts, the pessimists, the optimists and every shade of opinion and behaviour in between because you can’t please all the membership all of the time.
Politics is not always the art of the possible. No amount of fresh faces will reverse cuts, force a u-turn on disjointed government thinking or a volte-face on great ideas that die a death as soon as action is required. Sometimes the choice is between the disastrous, the unpalatable and the disastrous.
You need to have different language sets to get all the internal and external stakeholders, different sectors and interests together. I’d also suggest doubt, hesitation, reflection, consideration and reconsideration are better companions of proper decision than any fresh dulcet tones.
I agree we need a natural churn but it’s clodpate thinking to suggest anyone can push water uphill just by having a ‘Here’s Johnny’ moment and bursting on to the scene – it takes a blend of approaches and a strong team to bring change.
Naturally, any election has political pyrotechnics and caterwauling but this year has been particularly bad. There’s been trolling, dirty fighting, bullying and false smears involving several keyboard warriors on various social media sites.
I have never met Hala Jawad but watched with increasing horror as she was being unjustifiably singled out and attacked. The herd mentality was shocking. Her attackers said, as voters, they were merely initiating robust debate.
The questions to her were loaded. She was ridiculed when she changed her Twitter profile picture, admonished for putting her election statement on a thread after three other candidates were allowed to do so, she was called an airhead and accused of hair-flicking (?). It was relentless.
Naturally I jumped to her defence and discovered malicious rumours circulating about me, including falsifying expenses because I’m not really a contractor, that I’ve repeatedly been investigated for bullying but avoided punishment and I waste members’ fees travelling round the world in business class.
Apparently I got £85,000 gross last year. It was actually £6,000. The list goes on.
At the risk of sounding patronising, I’m so proud of Hala who acted with integrity throughout. Her fresh voice has already exhibited good leadership traits.
I agree we need a natural churn of candidates and sharpened elbows to get to the front of the queue to persuade the latest set of decision-makers of the contribution that pharmacy can make to improving patient health and well-being. That every decision I took, every policy I pursued, every programme I initiated, I’ve never forgotten: we’re here to give every pharmacist in our country the chance to make the most of their life and to help their patients.
I agree we’ve never lived up to where we should be for all sorts of reasons, external or internal, but we can all agree we are not where we were and we are moving in the right direction, perhaps too slowly for some because of matters outside our control like the government’s cuts.
As for me, every political role ends in failure but win or lose, I finish this campaign as I began it – as a free man who did not compromise his conscience or his principles.
Whatever the result, thank you for your support over the years – whether a smile, a kind word, a handshake or a hug. It’s been a real pleasure.
Treasurer of the RPS (2011-2016)