The Review Steering Group (RSG) has issued its final proposals on Setting the Direction for Pharmacy Representation in England, which pharmacy contractors can vote upon from late May.
The National Pharmacy Association will consult with our members over the coming weeks before declaring our final position.
The NPA was not formally represented on the RSG, unlike other trade associations. Nevertheless, from the beginning, we engaged constructively with the review and challenged the RSG to deal with a range of issues, some of which remain unanswered.
We welcome the fact that independent pharmacy contractors will retain 50% of the votes on PSNC, partly at the insistence of the NPA and independent representatives on the Review Steering Group.
However, despite repeated requests, the business case for taking £1.5m of funding away from local pharmaceutical committees and redirecting it to PSNC is sketchy and key governance issues have not been addressed. Contractors are being asked to vote on an important set of reforms without knowing the full picture.
A Yes vote has the potential to deliver some positive changes in relation to national negotiation, but with risks to local representation, given that LPC resources would be substantially depleted overall. A No vote would leave longstanding problems unattended – and going back to the drawing board at a future date does not guarantee a better outcome.
No-one can claim that the current system is perfect, but it is equally true that these proposals will not make it so.
Whatever happens the process must be swiftly completed, so we can all then turn our full attention to the many challenges at the pharmacy coalface, and strengthening relationships beyond the sector, especially within Integrated Care Systems. We do not want a further period of uncertainty for the sector, with months or even years of introspection. Our busy members want pharmacy representatives to be fully focused on giving them the support they need, not endlessly talking amongst ourselves about structure and process.
The NPA will support members in understanding the implications of these proposals. We encourage our members to attend the PSNC sessions, and will ourselves organise a ‘Townhall’ meeting in May to facilitate debate within the independent sector.
These proposals are about the future of local and national contractual representation, holding representative bodies to account and the levies paid to support this work. It is a matter of considerable importance to our members and we encourage them to exercise their vote when the time comes.