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‘Pharmacy representation must change to become more effective’

The representation of community pharmacy must become more sophisticated, passionate and courageous if it is to influence the government, says Ian Strachan

The 2020 independent review into pharmacy representation led by Professor David Wright had some welcome recommendations. Leadership in our sector is the most pressing priority we face right now. The sector, particularly independent pharmacies, should challenge and expect more from its representatives on a national level.


We need leadership now more than ever that can expose the shear folly of this continual sidelining of community pharmacy. For me, it’s about community access to healthcare and making more radical measures to address the capacity challenges facing the NHS. These issues must focus the minds of policy makers after the COVID-19 pandemic. If ever a sector’s day had arrived, then that day is surely now.

The early soundbites I’ve heard from the Review Steering Group, tasked with taking forward the Wright review’s recommendations, suggest it has identified some key areas for change. For example, it would seem there is a growing realisation that community pharmacy is shifting towards a more clinical frontier, which is long overdue. This shift has been a personal crusade of mine for years and something that, as a pharmacist and a contractor, I’d like to see happen.

The group’s focus on improving the openness and transparency of sector’s decision makers is also welcome. Making contractors more central to decision making is, likewise, a much-needed tactic. The most critical factor for change, however, is people. Why? Because it is people that make things happen. It is people that create followers, loyalty and change.

The representation of community pharmacy must become more sophisticated, more passionate, and more courageous if we are to influence government thinking and its direction of travel with regards to community pharmacy.

It would help for everyone to agree on the problem we are trying to fix. Is the Wright review trying to improve the effectiveness of the PSNC “with regards to national representation”, as it says? Or to restore a “single voice for pharmacy”? Or is it trying to crown the PSNC as the undisputed spokesperson for community pharmacy? Or perhaps all of these?

The Wright review and the implementation of its recommendations offer a unique opportunity to showcase, support and encourage the leaders of the future. This is an opportunity to understand their purpose, hopes and motives.

I would like to see the Review Steering Group look at how candidates involved in future leadership positions are introduced to contractors. What credentials underpin those aspiring to serve and what do they stand for? Their values, which are too often overlooked, are crucial here.

There needs to be more discipline across lobbying bodies to align messaging across the sector. All of us across pharmacy have more in common than we have differences. We have to accept that differences exist as pharmacies have different business models.

Accepting that we must strive for solutions by consensus will allow for better representation. We can’t put individual interests before the survival of the sector. We must move as one profession.

I wish the Review Steering Group well. Learning from successes and failures of the past can only pave out a better way for the future.

Ian Strachan owns Strachan Pharmacy, which has four branches in North West England, and was National Pharmacy Association chair from 2014-2018


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