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Changing of the guard


Changing of the guard

Our correspondent is intrigued by changes at the top of two of the profession’s industry bodies. 

There are significant changes at the senior level in two of community pharmacy's major representative organisations this month and next. At PSNC Sue Sharpe is handing over to a new chief exec Simon Dukes. 

There’s been a Sharpe pushing the buttons at PSNC for as long as I can remember. David Sharpe, as those of you of more senior years will recall, was chairman of the organisation when its committee was, shall we say, a little more rambunctious than it is now.

Mrs Sharpe leaves behind what appears to be a well-run organisation with good governance procedures in place, a far cry from the faction ridden outfit she inherited. The PSNC Committee, under an independent chairman, determines policy and leaves PSNC’s executives to implement it to the best of their ability. I think I’d be hard pushed to actually name more than a handful of people on the Committee, which is probably a good big egos on display.

Where Mrs Sharpe’s PSNC has struggled, particularly in recent years, is in convincing the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) of the value of community pharmacy, and delivering a viable service-based contract that many have seen as the best way to go in the future.

The reasons for lack of progress on this front could be argued over for days. The DHSC would no doubt cite a weak evidence base for pharmacy interventions, poor engagement by community pharmacists at local level and in its medicines management optimisation agenda, and NHS cost saving requirements.

Contractors can talk about lack of funding too! They can also talk about a lack of political will, poor understanding of what community pharmacy does at the DHSC, incessant NHS reorganisations and a GP dominated primary care set-up unwilling to commission pharmacy-led services.

Sea change?

But with GP services creaking under the strain, and a looming shortages of doctors, could this finally be about to change? Could all the hard work put in over the past decade be about to pay off just as Mrs Sharpe quietly slips off to enjoy her well-earned retirement?

The All-Party Pharmacy Group has gone public on a letter from Steve Brine, the pharmacy minister, revealing that the DHSC will open negotiations on moving from a contract that rewards dispensing higher volumes of medicines, towards a contract that rewards care provided for patients.

PSNC has been plugging its ideas for a revised contractual framework since the beginning of the year, with a proposed transition to the commissioning of a community pharmacy care plan (CPCP) service. Details have finally been put up on the PSNC website if you want more details (go to

PSNC has been quick to point out that negotiations haven’t even got underway yet, and that the minister has given no detail on what the substance of any negotiations will be. But after years of seeing the DHSC kicking the ball into the long grass, I am feeling some stirrings of optimism. After all the knocks of the past couple of years, that’s an unusual feeling.

And then there is the National Pharmacy Association (NPA). If there is one organisation that directly represents the interests of independent contracts it is the NPA and for this reason alone it needs to be strong and effective. So I wish I could feel a bit more positive about it. While Simon Dukes looks to be taking over an organisation that is in reasonable shape I’m not so sure that new NPA chief exec Mark Lyonette will find the same when he steps up in June.

Board games

It’s hard to put a finger on why I feel that twinge of unease. Under Ian Strachan’s chairmanship the NPA mounted an effective PR campaign against the pay cuts we have
all endured, and superficially the NPA Board elections with Nitin Sodha emerging as the new chairman, have passed off without much to excite comment... Or have they?

Mark Hewitson’s resignation from the Board ‘following the election of a vertically intergrated wholesaler to the chairmanship’ was a surprise to me. I understand he also stood for the position but lost out narrowly in the vote. His resignation statement does not paint a picture of harmony at board level.

To accuse the NPA of surrendering moral leadership on issues such as ‘price gouging by wholesalers’ are strong words. If Mr Hewitson is concerned that Mr Sodha will let his position as a director of the wholesaler Lexon UK influence the way has carries out his NPA role, he would have been better staying put. It will be more difficult to hold someone to account from outside the organisation.

And then there is the fact that the NPA has been without an appointed chief executive for over two years. In fact, with chief execs moving on with monotonous regularity, the position seems to have been vacant almost as long as it has been filled over the past decade.

The problem is that during that time the NPA Board has done more than set policy and strategic direction. It – or elements within it – have got used to running the show. This makes the job of the executive team difficult, to say the least. Who is their boss?

Let’s hope Mr Sodha and Mr Lyonette can sort that out as a priority.


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