Contractors vote to push through pharmacy representation overhaul
Although the Review Steering Group (RSG) narrowly met its voter threshold, contractors casting their votes overwhelmingly favoured implementing proposals to overhaul pharmacy representation in England.
In April, the RSG set out 37 proposals to address how the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and local pharmaceutical committees (LPCs) should best respond to the recommendations outlined in the Wright Review, an independent report that advocated a dramatic overhaul of community pharmacy contractor representation in 2020.
Over a three-week voting period – between May 27 and June 17 – the RSG asked contractors to accepted or reject the proposals, "setting the direction for pharmacy representation”.
It set a target of engaging two thirds (about 66%) of the pharmacy contractor base in England and decided that “a two-thirds majority of all those casting a vote [would be] required to approve the vote”.
It narrowly achieved its threshold, with 68.3% of contractors – “a total of 7,601 ODS Codes” – participating in the vote, the RSG wrote in an announcement today (June 22).
The proposals, however, received a resounding “yes”: 88.6% of respondents were in favour of the RSG’s suggestions, marking an "unequivocal statement" from contractors that they support the plans, the RSG said.
“We now look to PSNC and the LPCs to start making those changes,” it stated, “talking and listening to all contractors as they do.”
Under the proposals, LPCs will redistribute 13% of their funding towards PSNC and membership for all PSNC and LPC committees will be limited to 12 years – with three terms of four years – from April 2023. PSNC will also be renamed Community Pharmacy England.
RSG: Proposals must be implemented “in good time”
"Neither the RSG group or the secretariat ever thought that we would get such an overwhelming ‘yes’”, RSG’s secretary James Wood revealed at a press briefing.
“But [we] clearly did work hard to make sure that the information was out there in terms of the proposals, and people had the opportunity to digest them [and] ask questions,” he continued.
The RSG today thanked “all contractors who spared the time to engage with this work”.
“This has been challenging work, not least given some of the differences in opinion between various parts of the sector,” it said.
The final result clearly showed that “the sector is united in the way forward and wants to see positive changes to both local and national representation”, the RSG wrote. The RSG assured contractors that change will "happen in good time”, although “not everything will be possible to implement overnight”.
Mr Wood pointed out “there [was] some clearly critical work that will need to be done to support LPCs in the next election cycle”.
“In the long term, we hope our work will have contributed to helping the sector come together to tackle the very great challenge of persuading the NHS and government that we are a united, forward-looking sector, with much to offer, and deserving of further investment and support,” the RSG stated.
PSNC to implement some changes “immediately”
Responding to the RSG’s announcement, PSNC chief executive Janet Morrison said she was “excited about taking forward these proposals for change”.
“It is clear to me how much community pharmacies are struggling at present, and strengthening our negotiating capacity, building a stronger evidence base, and improving our governance and dialogue with contractors will all help us to make a stronger case for the sector,” she commented.
Although PSNC “will not receive any additional levy funds this year” following the approval of the RSG proposal, Ms Morrison pledged to “start work on some of these urgent jobs immediately”.
“And in the future, we will use any additional levy funds to support work that strengthens our hands in the negotiations,” she said.
“Building high-quality evidence is not easy or cheap – for instance, a large-scale cost of service inquiry would cost at least £500,000 – so PSNC members are likely to continue to face difficult decisions prioritising how resources are best spent,” she explained.
PSNC expects to share an “action plan and progress to date” on the implementations of the proposals in autumn.
This will detail how PSNC aims to “strengthen [its] negotiating strategy and […] enhance the data and evidence we can commission to support our case”, on top of reinforcing its support for LPCs, Ms Morrison said.