We have been celebrating our centenary year and had the honour of receiving a tribute from HRH the Prince of Wales who thanked pharmacy teams for their service to the nation.
However our focus has continued to be the day to day work of helping NPA members with their business, practice and development needs.
Like you, our valued members, we have faced the demands of the pandemic by stepping up yet another gear to provide the very best support possible, in uniquely challenging circumstances for the entire health care sector.
Here’s just some of the work the NPA has done in 2021 to support our members...
Covid cost recovery and fair funding for pharmacies
NPA played a key role in getting pharmacies reimbursed for covid costs, campaigning with our members throughout the spring and summer to get justice done. Protests took place in the constituencies of several government ministers, including the then Health Secretary, the Chancellor and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s constituency, with digital advertising vans driving around Westminster and Uxbridge as part of the NPA’s fair funding campaign. We later created resources to help members claim correctly and fully for the extra costs they had incurred during the pandemic.
Unfortunately, funding to deliver the current contractual framework in England cannot possibly sustain the service developments we could otherwise deliver. We challenged the health secretary in person how it makes sense that NHS investment in GP pharmacists and PCN pharmacists has increased whilst investment in community pharmacy – a vital, patient facing clinical asset - has gone into reverse?
We produced comprehensive guidance and timely updates to help members with home deliveries, covid vaccinations and, near the close of the year, the ‘Plan B’ response to a threatened fourth wave.
We met with the Vaccines Minister and the Equalities Minister to discuss vaccine hesitancy and followed up with online training about helping people make an informed choice to be vaccinated. We also worked closely with other bodies to ensure that community pharmacies could fully participate in the programme as the sector was not going to have a significant role in the Covid vaccine roll out initially. As we end the year, community pharmacy has made a huge contribution delivering over 15m doses with NPA members at the forefront.
The NPA worked alongside the Home Office to launch a codeword scheme in pharmacies to offer a lifeline to survivors of domestic abuse, in the light of covid lockdowns. The Ask for ANI scheme enables victims to discreetly request immediate help from the police or other support services from the safety of their local pharmacy.
We made partnership arrangements for pharmacies to offer fit to fly PCR tests.
With the government scaling back state-backing for covid vaccination indemnity, NPA Insurance developed affordable and sustainable solutions, working with the NHS to keep premiums low.
Raising the profile of independent community pharmacy
NPA board members and other NPA members have appeared on national TV and Radio frequently throughout the year with dozens of appearances on the BBC and other main broadcast channels, as well as widespread newspaper coverage. This helps to reinforce the increasingly positive perceptions people have of community pharmacy, especially in light of the sector’s covid response. In total, the NPA has been in the press over 500 times this year.
In our role as Medication Safety Officer (MSO) for all community pharmacies in England with fewer than 50 branches, the NPA has continued to compile regular error reports and related patient safety advice.
New pharmacy practice resources
Too many to list here! But for easy reference, we’ve grouped some of our new resources into website hubs:
- Covid - https://www.npa.co.uk/coronavirus-updates/
- Workforce - https://www.npa.co.uk/community-pharmacy-careers/
- NHS CPCS - https://www.npa.co.uk/services/community-pharmacist-consultation-service/
- NHS New Medicine Service - https://www.npa.co.uk/information-and-guidance/resources-for-the-new-medicine-service-nms/
- NHS DMS - https://www.npa.co.uk/discharge-medicines-service-dms/
- NHS hypertension case finding - https://www.npa.co.uk/services/hypertension-case-finding-advanced-service/
Meanwhile, the NPA’s Advice & Support Service has answered thousands of calls and emails helping members with all types of queries relating to professional community pharmacy practice. Find out more about this core member benefit HERE.
Pro Delivery Manager (PDM) has helped even more pharmacies deliver prescriptions to patients in a safe and efficient way. In 2021 over 1,000,000 prescriptions were made every month using PDM and new partnerships with most PMR system providers is making it easier to use than ever before.
The ‘My Pharmacy Insights’ service has been rolled out to all NPA members. In partnership with data company Real World Analytics (RWA), the tool gives members the ability to your own pharmacy’s performance, compare it to other pharmacies (and against the national picture), to make better business decisions as a result.
Expert help for your business
The NPA has selected more Business Partners to support you in every area of your business, with essential products and services to help meet your requirements - often with negotiated preferential rates for members. Expert advice is available on: increasing your patient footfall; working more efficiently using smart software; managing your finances; buying or selling a pharmacy; claiming tax relief; managing your team; saving on utilities; improving the look of your pharmacy and marketing; and more.
NHS integration and new NHS services
In the early autumn, we published a joint report with the NHS Confederation, recommending steps to help make community pharmacy work as part of Integrated Care Systems (ICS). The report shows that community pharmacists are not a voice in the wilderness within the NHS. It is fantastic to have the NHS confederation weighing in with their encouragement.
We have worked with NHS England to educate GPs and practice managers about the GP referral pathway to the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service. This ‘CPCS Mythbuster’ is one of the outputs from this joint work.
The NPA Board met with NHS England’s Director of Systems Transformation, to emphasise that community pharmacy should be appropriately represented in all emerging leadership and accountability arrangements. He accepted that covid-19 has highlighted the case for collaboration and partnership work locally and indeed at all levels of the health and social care system.
Recognising that workforce shortages are becoming increasingly disruptive across the whole sector, the NPA established with other associations (CCA and AIM) the Community Pharmacy Workforce Development Group. One early output was a new website designed to attract recruits (www.communitypharmacycareers.org).
We are in talks with senior NHS England officials on topics ranging from the new roles for pharmacists in primary care, an increasing trend towards locum work, decreased participation in permanent roles and temporary staff absence during the pandemic. There are no easy fixes and this will require a collaborative effort across the sector, NHS and Government.
The NPA was successful in petitioning the Migration Advisory Committee at the Home Office for pharmacists to be added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), but this cannot fix the overall problem which is fundamentally related to inadequate funding for the sector.
Learning and development
Student satisfaction for those who took part in NPA’s training courses remains high. Analysis of course evaluation forms from a sample of 550 students also revealed that nearly 95% of students agreed that the course was beneficial to their role in community pharmacy with almost 90% of students being likely or very likely to use the NPA for future training needs.
The Kickstart Scheme is a government scheme introduced in the UK to fund the creation of high quality jobs for young people. Around 500 kickstarters received work experience in a community pharmacy this year. Aside from developing new skills and confidence, they were given the opportunity to undertake NPA's Medicines counter assistant training course. The scheme provided our members with a government funded resource for their busy teams and attracted young people to community pharmacy. www.npa.co.uk/kickstart-scheme
We have worked with new partners – ECG - to deliver our vaccination training and PGD programme. ECG has an excellent reputation within the industry and partnering with them has enabled us to offer better pricing and an improved selection this year. Nearly 1,800 pharmacists have undertaken vaccination training (face-to-face and/or online) since May. www.npa.co.uk/pgd
Although the NPA’s pass rate for the 2019/2020 cohort exceeded the national pass rate of 88%, the NPA continued to look at ways to enhance our training to develop trainee pharmacists into confident and competent pharmacists. One new element is a bespoke workshop with the RPS and RCGP covering skills for clinical consultations including examinations, identifying red flags, promoting self-care and completing accurate clinical records. Linked to this programme, our eLearning Mock Exams helped over 500 trainees with their GPhC assessment this year. www.npa.co.uk/training/foundation
Political and stakeholder engagement
We have taken political engagement to another level this year. A good illustration of that is the fact that within a period of four weeks this autumn the NPA helped to arrange four health minister visits to NPA member pharmacies. This included the Secretary State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid and Pharmacy Minister Maria Caulfield. As well as learning about new and established pharmacy services, the Ministers all received their flu jab at the pharmacy too.
The NPA has responded to approximately 30 formal consultations and recently shared with government and NHS England a can-do offer that has captured the interest of the Pharmacy Minister and the Health Secretary. ‘How We Can Help’ describes how pharmacies can help get the country through the pandemic, help the NHS catch up on lost ground and be a foundation stone for better care in the future. We believe this should be the basis for negotiating a more realistic funding envelope that delivers change and improvement and helps clear the NHS backlog.
The All-Party Parliamentary Pharmacy Group (APPG), which the NPA co-sponsors, hosted three meetings involving cross-party groups of MPs and peers, exploring the funding situation, the future of pharmacy amid Covid-19 and the contribution of community pharmacy teams within NHS primary care.
Moving forward with the consent of independents
The Pharmacy Representation Review (of the role of Local Pharmaceutical Committees and PSNC) has been underway since 2019, but little has been said yet about how contractors will approve change. The NPA has continued to make clear that the distinctive voice of independent pharmacies must be heard in the process. The voting mechanic currently proposed by the Review Steering Group is a cause of major concern to us as the national voice of independent community pharmacy; it is inherently weighted in favour of the block votes of multiples.
Membership and member communications
We’ve introduced a digital ‘InPharmacy’ and WhatsApp groups as new channels to receive timely information from the NPA. In the coming year, we’ll be overhauling the NPA’s website, which is full of key resources and support material, but isn’t easy to navigate.
The NPA listened carefully to members’ priorities which has shaped the way services and support are provided. There was a significant member consultation through 2021 that led to the agreement of a new membership structure. In addition to NPA’s Full Membership Package, there will now also be a Core Membership Package from January 2022, which doesn’t include as many services, and may suit some larger pharmacy groups better.
This year NPA Insurance has supported members delivering Covid-19 vaccinations by providing cover solutions for areas of risk not backed by the government. This includes a public liability extension to professional indemnity policies for vaccinations undertaken off-site and low cost cover for clinical negligence risks arising out of vaccine administration. In England NPA Insurance have worked with the Department of Health to agree a risk sharing agreement for Covid-19 vaccinations undertaken from 6th September 2021 until 31st March 2022. See the Covid-19 vaccination FAQ on the NPA website in respect of the cover we can provide and the associated costs - https://www.npa.co.uk/coronavirus-updates/faqs-covid-19/#insurance
NPAI has also supported members in responding to Covid-19 related complaints and claims, including alleged disability discrimination arising out of the legal requirement to wear face coverings in pharmacy premises. The claims team’s efforts have led to what is believed to be the first judicial decision in the area, which backs actions taken by pharmacies to enforce the wearing of face coverings where exemption is not stated.
As part of its ongoing commitment to protect community pharmacies, NPA Insurance (NPAI) introduced PharmaKey, as an inclusive benefit to NPA members at no extra cost. The new insurance policy covers business premises’ locks and lost keys and is just one of several new products available.
Centenary review of ‘core beliefs’
As well as commemorating the past, we have also used our centenary year to think about the future. To that end, we consulted about our statement of ‘Core Beliefs’, asking whether it is fit for the present day and the decades ahead. The purpose of such a statement is to give everyone with an interest in the future of independent community pharmacy (not just the NPA itself) a point of reference for all that they say or do in the sector’s name. Here’s the new statement(s) that will guide us in the years ahead: www.npa.co.uk/the-npa/npa-statement-core-beliefs/
Devolved nation highlights
There have been further significant advances in pharmacy services in Scotland, notably the development of Pharmacy First, which was launched at the height of the pandemic and is now reporting impressive results in terms of avoiding unnecessary GP appointments.
From creating SOPs on Pharmacy First, Medicine Waste and Pharmacy Collect, to providing resources for members on Whistleblowing, Duty of Candour and manage administrative tasks via NPA’s Pharmacy Task Planner – there’s been lots of NPA work in the background to help our Scottish members focus on patient care.
The NPA also provided a business contingency plan for members in Glasgow and across the country to help them prepare for the influx of people coming for a protest by climate change activists amid the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).
The impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol due to Brexit is of great concern and the NPA has been working hard behind the scenes to make sure the supply of medicines remains normal. The NPA has been working with key stakeholders including the MHRA, Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland (CPNI) and the Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA), to amplify concerns to all parties in the negotiations.
Members in Wales were welcomed to NPA centenary celebrations in Cardiff this year. First Minister Mark Drakeford paid tribute to the work of community pharmacy teams during the pandemic and his Health Minister, Eluned Morgan, promised further development of the role of community pharmacy. Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for Wales, Andrew Evans, described ambitions to “reinvent” the community pharmacy service – one that is thoroughly modern but built around values and behaviours that are intrinsic to independent community pharmacy.