Chief Executive’s blog: September 2021
Chief Executive’s blog: September 2021
September 30, 2021
“Contractors will have the chance to shape LPC and PSNC representation, and I hope you will take it”
By Chief Executive Simon Dukes
The list of things going on during my final week at PSNC, in many ways, sums up my experiences in this sector over the past three and a half years: business continues at a relentless pace.
There are ongoing negotiations on critical issues such as implementation support for Year 3 of the five-year deal; the Annual Review of the Contractual Framework to date; and preparation for Year 4 negotiations – all proceeding at speed. This is, of course, at the heart of all that PSNC does. It is never an easy task, and as I said to LPCs at our Conference earlier this month, we face an uphill struggle against HM Treasury’s determination to constrain the support available to the sector.
But pharmacies are doing everything right to build leverage, and I am still convinced, as I leave PSNC, that the Committee will in time be able to build on the amazing performance of the community pharmacy sector to good effect for the negotiations to come. There is a dawning realisation within the NHS – now backed-up with hard data – of something that we have known for the last 18 months: that community pharmacy has picked-up (and continues to pick-up) the COVID overspill of patients from general practice at an ever-increasing rate. These walk-in patients dramatically reduce the capacity of the sector to do more and add to the cost burden of contractors. This is leverage! If I have one regret from my time in community pharmacy, it is that I didn’t make clear enough to all of you, the time it sometimes takes to build leverage effective enough for our negotiations.
In addition to the under-the-bonnet negotiations, PSNC business continues elsewhere too: intelligence sharing with our key stakeholders across the sector including colleagues in other home nations and sessions with LPCs and other pharmacy bodies. In the past three and half years some of those cross-sector conversations have been challenging. Looking back (and more importantly, ahead), I do think this sector would be stronger if it put aside its differences and worked together on shared goals: at PSNC we routinely do that, with all parts of the sector represented. Unfortunately, this approach is not always followed elsewhere in the sector.
We have of course also been dealing with new issues: the fast-developing fuel supply issues – like most of you. Daily conversations with Government and wholesalers are ongoing, with a cross-sector meeting called by PSNC set for Friday. In all of this, we are working to ensure that any potential disruption to pharmacy deliveries is mitigated as well as it can be, as well as making a strong case that the pharmacy sector is at the front of the queue should the Government decide that prioritisations are necessary.
And it wouldn’t be a typical PSNC week without a flurry of news to share: this week we have had the long-awaited hypertension case-finding service specification, some overdue but really positive news about pharmacy staff being included in the NHS flu vaccination service, an extension of the Pandemic Delivery Service, and some national media queries about a new NHSE&I pharmacy pilot on the management of contraception.
This week has also seen the publication of PSNC’s Annual Report – which I hope you’ll find time to have a brief look at now that it is all available in digital format at psncannualreport.com – and news from the Review Steering Group (RSG) that they will next week announce another series of events.
Before I go, I want to say a few words about the RSG. As many of you know, the RSG is taking forward work that I first set in motion back in 2019: to improve PSNC and LPC ways of working, so that all contractors get top quality and consistent representation, support and services. Although there will be differences in opinion in the months ahead as the RSG develop their plan with you, you must not lose focus on that end goal.
Contractors will soon have the chance to shape what this new LPC and PSNC representation and support will look like and I hope you will take it: attend the RSG focus groups, share your ideas, and then at the end of it all, take part in their contractor vote. There will be those – probably both at PSNC and in the LPCs – who want to resist change, thinking that they alone know what the future should look like, or that there are too many divisions in the sector to move forwards. There will also be those who seek to reinforce the divisions across the sector, but I cannot state strongly enough how much this harms all contractors: it damages pharmacy’s reputation, it makes it easy for Government to divide and conquer, and it distracts your leaders from the real tasks at hand. Contractors must not let divisions take centre stage. Come together with a willingness to collaborate and compromise, to shape a better future, and whatever you vote on, PSNC and LPCs must take forward your mandate as best as they can.
I will look forward to seeing all of this unfold from outside the sector, and to seeing pharmacies go from strength to strength as the NHS tries to recover from the pandemic’s immediate aftermath. My next challenge – leading a charity which provides ethical low-cost credit for low-income families – will be a very different one. But it is something I have wanted to do for some time. I leave this sector with nothing but admiration for the work that you all do: the pharmacies embedded within their local communities and all those who support them here at PSNC. I wish you every success for the future: your patients, the NHS and our country rely on you.