Dialogue is an essential part of our political and public affairs strategy. Meaningful discussions between government, the NHS, frontline pharmacy representatives and patients is not enough alone, but certainly without this there can be no genuine progress.
Scotland’s Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, Rose Marie Parr, recently updated the NPA Board on NHS Scotland’s strategy for Achieving Excellence in Pharmaceutical Care. In a telling exchange about the Scottish Government’s relationships with pharmacy bodies, she said:“We talk a lot... even when we disagree, we keep talking”.
It cannot be said that relationships in England over the past two years could be characterised in this way. At times the relationships have been strained almost to breaking point and communications have been, at best, guarded.
So it is good that PSNC’s Sue Sharpe reported this month that she is experiencing “dialogue and responsiveness that we simply didn’t see in 2016 and the first half of 2017”.
(By the way, given that she will soon be leaving her post at PSNC, I must take this opportunity to personally congratulate Sue for her remarkable resilience under the weight of the huge pressures that have been visited upon the sector in recent times. Sue: you are a real trooper who I admire and greatly respect.)
I am happy to report that I too am sensing a new appetite for dialogue, having been in talks with ministers and senior officials over recent months. In particular, we have received a notably positive welcome to our proposition that community pharmacy can play a profound role in easing the NHS access crisis, which has hit a new level of intensity this winter. The NHS must think more imaginatively about where care is delivered, and help local pharmacies to develop as the default front door to health.
Dialogue is one of five Ds in the overarching campaign strategy which we have been pursuing since 2016 (see left). The others are delay, deter, divert and deliver. The first two Ds in this list are essentially negative strands, the second two are the positive strands. It’s not enough simply to call out bad policy – we’re also laying out a positive agenda. The NPA is not just a voice of defiance, it is also a voice and vehicle for real progress.
Dialogue is the essential bridge, from the negative to the positive campaign strands. The sooner we are firmly in that space, the better for all concerned – especially, and ultimately, the patients we serve.
Ian Strachan NPA chairman