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The way forward


The way forward

It continues to be a busy period for the IPF and our membership and profile have risen significantly as a result of our launch of new activities in 2014. Since January we have been running monthly webinars in partnership with Johnson & Johnson, who kindly host all the technology to allow hundreds of pharmacists and their teams to listen in to some of the key figures in the pharmacy sector. We have deliberately made these available to all, not just IPF members, because we recognise that some issues are so important that we have to do all we can to promote them.

If we are doing the right thing, people will recognise that and want to join us anyway. We don’t have to be exclusive, we just have to offer the right support.

In January, we had over 1,000 people take part on-line and in collective groups around the country to listen to the General Pharmaceutical Council outline the new inspections process.

"We have recognised in the past two years that being a representative body alone is simply not enough"

In February, we were able to hear the views of Clare Howard, deputy chief pharmacist at NHS England, as she set out the reasons why we should all be taking part in the Call to Action. And last month we had Sue Sharpe, PSNC Chief Executive, whose webinar was simply titled – ‘What the hell is going on in Pharmacy?’ She had plenty to say, and if you want to catch up on any of these webinars, you can view them on-line at the IPF website, We will also be publicising details of future webcasts, and if you want to take part you can register online.

We have reached nearly 2,000 people with these events, together with our recent conference at the University of Hertfordshire at the end of March. This conference, in partnership with Actavis, covered the issues affecting many contractors – how to use the strengths of being an independent to develop the business and how to ensure that new services deliver a financial return.

More leaders required

The IPF has really hit on some key issues and it seems to me that the sector is in desperate need of support from those who should be leaders. What does that mean? Well, leadership comes in all forms. Every contractor is a leader – because they need to support and lead their team to deliver for patients. Some pharmacists are involved in their LPC, local practice network or other groups, and these too are about leadership in the profession.

We see leaders every day, yet we seem to think the term only applies to prime ministers, presidents and big corporate entities. In reality, it is what many of us do every day in our own way. The key thing is to make a difference.

This is why the IPF continues to focus on supporting independent pharmacists to get the right skills and knowledge to deliver the best service for patients and to build their business. We have recognised in the past two years that being a representative body alone is simply not enough.

We can understand the issues that affect our members better if we help them to overcome the problems. For example, if we want to help them to argue for more nationally commissioned services, then we need to support them to deliver the ones that they have now. If independents are going to argue that they should have a contract that rewards them for better patient outcomes, then we need to help them to deliver those improvements.

We have also made sure that the views and concerns of independents have been shared with the key decision makers as part of the recent Pharmacy Call to Action. There were some key themes that emerged throughout our discussions with independents. Many wanted to see nationally commissioned services that could be adapted to meet local needs. I am sure that there will have been a lot of consistency in the submissions from independents, whether they came from individual contractors or through support groups.

The hub and spoke issue

There is one issue that we raised in answer to question four on the use of technology that I want to focus on because it has risen in the priority rankings recently. The decision by Boots to launch a hub and spoke has highlighted a huge discrimination between multiples and independents. Boots has clearly recognised that if it can better support its branches by centralising dispensing, this creates a significant economy of scale together with space for branches – the spokes – to spend more time and resource on delivering patient services.

The law, as it stands, does not allow independents to take advantage of this system. Dispensing is only allowed where both the hub and spoke are owned by the same corporate entity. It is no wonder that other multiple groups are looking at this method of managing dispensing.

So what we need is for independents to be placed on a level playing field with multiples. We need a change in the law to allow independents to look at innovative ways to deliver better services for their patients, whether that is through collaboration with each other or with wholesalers.

Independent yet interdependent

The IPF is working with a number of partners to consider how else it can support independents to eliminate the problems they face, because they do not have the back office support that branches of multiples can rely on. We have recently been able to offer our members a discount if they want to purchase services that can help them to meet the highest standards required by the GPhC, covering areas such as HR and premises safety.

Just because contractors are independent it does not exclude them from being interdependent on each other. The way forward is for independent pharmacists to support each other. The IPF will be doing all it can to facilitate this and also to make sure that the views of independents are strongly heard so that change can take place.

Contacting the IPF

The Independent Pharmacy Federation can be reached by e-mail at or via its website at 

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