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Negotiators must stick up for the little guy

When did you last see someone from any pharmacy leadership organisation in your pharmacy? I bet “never” is a common answer, says Xrayser

Are those above us always blissfully unaware of just how chaotic things are in the pharmacy? When I managed a multiple, the Big Boss would came round, accompanied by my immediate boss – who would "mind the shop" while we talked.


"Things seem pretty peaceful here," said the Big Boss as we sipped tea in the sanctuary of my office. Meanwhile, my immediate boss would try to check the mountain of scripts, chase the afternoon's missing delivery, and answer the innumerable queries – but leave most of the chaos for me.

And afterwards I would think about the corporate ladder where everyone above looks down and sees smiling faces – while everyone below looks up and sighs in exasperation.

When did you last see someone from any pharmacy leadership organisation in your pharmacy? I bet "never" is a common answer. True, we might not have invited them, but shouldn't that be part of the remit for PSNC, or the regional pharmacy boards, or even just the LPC? Are they unaware of the chaos?

As the mountain won't come to Mohammed, I read through last week's C+D interview with Sue Sharpe and, as an independent, for me it makes pretty bleak reading. It seems my days are numbered since, when asked if independent pharmacies are going to be viable in the future, the answer from the chief executive of our negotiating committee is: "I really hope so."

Hope so? I'd prefer: "We will make it so," or even: "We are working to try to ensure that it is so." It makes me wonder if PSNC even consider themselves to be negotiating for independents.

Yes it's nice to feel important, and you feel more important if your engagement is with directors of multinational pharmacy chains in their plush head offices. But it's more important to support those who need it, and everything about our negotiated contract and payment structure seems to favour large chains – having the same regulatory burden regardless of size, a discount scheme based on dispensing per contract not contractor, ability of wholesalers to treat multiples and independents differently, and so on.

Perhaps the biggest issue for an independent is security of income. Sue Sharpe says I have to change before I will get more support – and I accept that we may need to be shaken from complacency – but before I follow her instructions and pay to outsource my administration and invest in more pharmacists and ACTs, I need to know I can still afford it at the year's end. The still unregulated control of entry and the category M cuts, among other things, make this as predictable as the weather.

So, if you're an LPC or even a PSNC committee member, how about visiting a small independent – unlike the boss, you will be very welcome. And if you have visited, tell us what you're going to do differently to support us.

That will also be very welcome.


Xrayser is on Twitter @xrayser

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