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The future of independents is at stake

Whatever emerges from professor Wright’s reforms, independents need to be heard says Mark Lyonette, the chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association...

 

Professor David Wright has presented the sector with proposals for a radical overhaul of how community pharmacy is represented and supported in England.

The NPA recognises the Wright Review as a sincere attempt to create a more coherent end-to-end system of representation and support, connecting local and national leadership. So we want to be an active participant in the process of change while at the same time being very much alive to the possibility of unintended consequences.

At the outset of this process, the NPA set out a number of principles we wish to see applied to any future structure of representation and support, including continued investment in local leadership and improved accountability.

The system at local level must be skilful in representation, efficient and responsive to change; We do support streamlining the network of LPCs (ideally to reflect NHS structures), provided a thorough analysis shows that this would be cost-releasing and that savings can be reinvested in local support and representation.

We have emphasised the importance of equitable governance to ensure that independents and multiples are fairly represented, locally and nationally. Whatever structure emerges it needs to allow the distinctive voice of independents to be heard and work for everyone big and small.

It’s the NPA’s task now to provide the platforms upon which independents can think collectively about how to respond. There is still a lot more to consider before the NPA can endorse the recommendations as they stand.

To this end we have invited current independent representatives on LPCs to connect with us on social media platforms and we continue to take soundings from NPA members, including a series of mini-surveys in the coming weeks.  Independent Community Pharmacist readers can also feed in their thoughts to us via independentsvoice@npa.co.uk.

A key question is whether contractors can be confident that they will get better value for money overall in the future from the total sum of their fees going locally and nationally. Many people have asked ‘will they be spending the same or more or less on this proposed new structure?’

There needs to be more information and analysis to help answer these important questions. If, for example, independents will be spending the same on the combined local and national structure as envisaged in the report but they still need to find funds for local support then how is that going to be afforded?

We are conscious of the pressing needs of the here-and-now even as we look forward to the future. There is, after all, a deadly pandemic going on, with pharmacies on the frontline of the nation’s response.

What’s more, we cannot afford to spend years looking inwards if this means failing to reach out to the world around us: commissioners, fellow healthcare providers, patients.

But that’s not a reason to be disengaged from the review process, which is an opportunity to effect much needed change. I don’t think anyone would say that the current system is perfect.

If the review can succeed in ensuring that the sector’s collective resources are deployed more effectively than now, it will be well worth the effort.




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