Sanjeev Panesar, superintendent of the Pan Pharmacy group, shares his experiences of being NPA's newest board member.
Our pharmacies have been NPA members for longer than I can remember and we have always valued their services, advice and support.
I am one of many pharmacy owners who feel they have a duty to steer the pharmacy agenda in a positive direction for the benefit of the whole sector. So it was that, in 2020, I opted to stand for election to the NPA Board, to try and add value and support fellow members.
It has been a very steep learning curve and one that will not stop, given the ever changing NHS landscape and constant developments in policy and healthcare practice. My hope is to continue to add value, thinking radically and exploring new ways in which to support our members through change.
The board is made up of many personalities that have years of invaluable experience, bringing their own energy and enthusiasm into discussions. They regularly challenge each other in a constructive and open dialogue and consider multiple points of view to ensure all avenues are considered before reaching a consensus on how to move forwards. The board also has representatives from each of the devolved nations which facilitates an exchange of learning to support progress across the UK.
It has been just over a year from when I was elected onto the NPA board, and what a year it has been!
My first few meetings began in April 2020, just when the covid pandemic was taking a foothold in the United Kingdom and lockdown restrictions began resulting in a huge financial and operational strain within our sector. The NPA were quick to mobilise and respond, setting up working groups to deliver the support needed in those most testing of times. They began robust lobbying alongside other organisations such as the PSNC, which bore fruit in the form of Covid-19 advance payments, PPE and the pandemic delivery service to name a few.
What has become very apparent to me is that the work the NPA has done has benefited the community pharmacy sector as a whole. An example of this has been the well documented Ernst & Young (EY) survey which has been cited on numerous occasions by politicians, CCA, AIM and PSNC and other organisations to help fight our sector’s case and lobby to the government the urgent changes that are required to England’s inadequate funding model. The acres of media coverage the NPA has achieved over the last year has been outstanding, resulting in a real momentum of support from members of the public and politicians. Right across TV, radio and social media, we have heard about pharmacies’ vital contribution to health and wellbeing in communities up and down the country.
It has truly been an eye opener to be on the other side of the NPA and see the inner workings of such a large organisation. Independent community pharmacy contractors may have one branch, or several, and it can be a difficult balancing act attending to the needs of many contractors and organisations of different sizes. One thing I am certain of though is that independent contractors can rest assured that the NPA is an organisation that truly aims to represent the core values and interests of independent community pharmacies of all sizes.
We all know the services that the NPA offers, such as discounted consumables with partner organisations, HR advice and support, gold standard pharmacy practice advice, insurance services and so on. However, it is the intangible value of representation and advocacy that is often overlooked and undervalued.
With the current review of the PSNC well underway, it is now more important than ever that independent contractors have a unified voice and strong membership organisation to represent their views to the Review Steering Group. This will ensure that independent contractors have a coherent message and are a key stakeholder in the structure of contractor representation that emerges.
I never quite had an appreciation for the level of work involved behind the scenes of the organisation such as the NPA, however one thing is vibrantly clear, without the NPA, many pharmacies wouldn’t get the support and voice they need to create positive change within the sector.
The NPA is continuing to make its voice heard on funding, because if funding isn’t addressed, more and more pharmacies will be unsustainable, health inequalities will widen and ultimately patients will pay the price by having reduced access to quality healthcare services on their doorstep.
This last year has given me an insight into what the NPA offers its members and its ambitions to continue to be a strong voice for independent community pharmacies for generations to come. I am immensely proud to be an NPA member now more than ever and can confidently say that the NPA is fighting strongly on behalf of all of its members.