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NPA fears multiples could ‘outvote’ independents in pharmacy representation review

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has raised concerns over the voting mechanism that will be used to decide on potential reforms to the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and local pharmaceutical committees (LPCs).

Earlier this week (October 19), the Pharmacy Representation Review Steering Group (RSG) – which was established last year to bring changes to pharmacy representation in England – released its working plan for the contractor vote, which will take place online over a two-week period “in early 2022”.

Contractors will be asked to approve or reject the proposals for representation at both a national and local level in a single vote – one vote per contract owned – “and all votes will be equally weighted”, the RSG said

However, NPA chair Andrew Lane said the voting process might need to be reconsidered, as “under these proposals, a very small number of large pharmacy businesses could outvote thousands of independent contractors, effectively disenfranchising the independent sector”.

“The RSG has said that it is seeking to build a consensus for change, yet the group’s proposed voting mechanism falls short of what is needed to guarantee a way forward that commands the support of the whole sector,” Mr Lane added.

Instead, the NPA suggested that “an absolute majority of all eligible independent voters should approve any new structure, as well as an absolute majority of multiples, in addition to a two-thirds majority overall”.


RSG member: NPA’s proposal needs “unrealistically high levels of engagement”


Mark Burdon, RSG member and independent pharmacy contractor, told C+D today (October 22) that the NPA’s voting suggestion “would require unrealistically high levels of engagement by the contractors for the vote to be viable”.

“Under their proposal, if even a small proportion of any part of the sector decided not to engage with the vote – for reasons that could be entirely unrelated to the proposals – then this would make moving forwards, even with proposals that have cross-sector support, impossible.

“We believe we have set a high bar for engagement and a two-thirds turnout is the minimum that we are aiming for,” Mr Burdon added.

The RSG voting proposals have received no negative feedback during the engagement sessions with contractors – which included representatives from independents too, Mr Burdon said.

“It is also worth noting that although we want to avoid divisions in the sector, in our voting proposal, even with a 90% turnout from Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) members, achieving a 66% turnout rate will involve over 50% of non CCA contractors voting, which is a very high bar to set. This ensures that both CCA [members] and independents can influence the outcome,” Mr Burdon continued.


No vote until proposals are significantly discussed


The RSG said that the vote will not take place until there has been “a significant amount of discussion with the sector to shape the proposals”.

“Once there is a preferred proposal for the future operating model for NHS community pharmacy representation and support, the vote can take place,” the RSG wrote.

The group shared an update on its progress at the Pharmacy Show in Birmingham. It said it received “overwhelming feedback supporting the alignment of a future LPC network to integrated care systems in the new NHS structures”.

“Aligning pharmacy representation with NHS structures will maximise community pharmacy influence at system level including positioning it as a key frontline healthcare provider and recognised contributor to achieving NHS targets,” it added.

The RSG will continue to engage with the sector to develop its proposals for change and address the issues raised through the Wright Review – which in 2020 recommended a dramatic overhaul of the English negotiator.

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