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Sue Sharpe: Don't 'cave in' and become NHS 'doormats'

Sue Sharpe: This is a war against bad policy

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC)'s chief executive has urged pharmacists not to “cave in” and accept the government’s cut to their funding.

“We cannot accept being treated as doormats by the NHS,” Sue Sharpe told delegates at the local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) conference last week (November 2).

Community pharmacies in England had “lost the battle" to prevent the £113 million drop in funding from December, but "we must take care that we do not lose the war”, Ms Sharpe said.

“I continue to use a warfare analogy, because this is what it is. This is a war against bad policy,” she added.

“It is bad for patients, really bad for local authorities, and it is bad for the NHS. That is why we rejected the government's imposition.”

Ms Sharpe was responding to a speech by pharmacy minister David Mowat, in which he attempted to explain the reasoning behind the funding cut.

Describing the most recent funding negotiations with the Department of Health (DH) as “the worst we have ever experienced”, Ms Sharpe stressed that the government’s proposals “clearly show pharmacy closures are on the agenda”.

“It is absolutely clear that everything points to a desire to thin out the pharmacy network,” she said.

Don't punish patients

Ms Sharpe urged pharmacists not to “punish patients” by reducing services and opening hours in the wake of the funding cuts.

“At an individual level, people need to decide what they do to manage the cuts, but I think we could each do with recognising that the local community is our greatest ally,” she said.

Ms Sharpe also stressed the “absolute need to not reduce prices for services”.

“It would be better to walk away than settle on prices that do not properly reflect the costs of [pharmacy] services,” she said.

PSNC is “seeking legal council”, said Ms Sharpe. But she branded a mooted strike as “unwise”, because “our greatest advocates will suffer”.

"It happened in Ireland a few years ago and was a complete disaster,” she added.

A few concessions secured

Ms Sharpe said the negotiator had managed to secure a few funding concessions from the DH – including the Quality Payments Scheme and changes to regulations around mergers – which could help contractors “survive” in future.

The amendment to the NHS pharmaceutical regulations – which will prevent a new pharmacy stepping in straight away if two pharmacies merge – is expected to come into force in December.

It is a “really important element”, Ms Sharpe said.

Ms Sharpe also confirmed that the government “wants to work with [PSNC]” to develop separate terms of service and payment for distance-selling pharmacies.

“We want distance-selling pharmacies to provide the full service that other community pharmacies have to, otherwise it could result in a discounted supply service,” she said.

If the issue is not resolved, Ms Sharpe predicted that clinical commissioning groups could face the choice of paying “whatever the price is from the bricks-and-mortar pharmacy, [or] 40p less if a patient uses a distance-selling pharmacy”.

How will your pharmacy cope with the funding drop?

Dilip Shah, Community pharmacist

As a  Pharmacy profession we are facing testing times and It is time now for all pharmacists to express their views to the media MP's, patients etc to maintain the real pressure on the Government and at the same time prove via Audits, taking part in quality work that Pharmacy deserves it's place in the integrated NHS.It is a sad reflection of professionals to express words and name calling for PSNC and its members without complete knowledge of how the process works and the enormous experience  and effort they make in representing you. If you are still not happy, ring PSNC or your representative for full facts before commenting.A wise person once said that it is easy to please people by accepting popular view but it takes courage to stand up for the truth and just cause .







b t, Manager

PSNC speak with forked tongue. Always has. Always will.

Farm Assistant, Community pharmacist

Lions led by donkeys......well actually pharmacy is donkeys led by donkeys.

Sarah Smythe, Information Technology

Its a sad profession gradually going into oblivion.

Liz Jones,

I was under the impression that was her nick name - Sue Doormat.  Whats changed?

John Smith, Pharmacy

I find it strange that a well known independent pharmacy group based in the SE has just acquired 21 additional pharmacies and this fact has gone unreported on the pages of the C+D? Is this not big news? Could this be because news like this doesn't really fit in with the whole austerity agenda being pleaded by the contractors? Well, someone managed to find an odd 20 or so million rattling around...

Charles Whitfield Bott, Pharmacist Director

Goodwill values are influenced by supply and demand, not profit levels. There are a finite number of contracts (a reducing number?), those multiples that are looking to expand will have to fight for these contracts and prices will rise relative to there profitability. As someone who is looking to increase his pharmacy estate the prospect of paying (and borrowing) more than the shop can pay back to the bank is not a good one, but the reality is that you will have to sub bank repayments from your existing buisness. Anyone who has ambitions of becoming a contractor is not going to find it easier after the cuts, if anything it will become harder.

And by the way you do not become a contractor to make loads of money, you do it because you dont want to be told how to practice by a big company, you do it so you can give a good service to the local population on your own terms. Unfortunalty there are loads of things that are a PITA that come with owning a contract.

S Morein, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

You miss the point Mr Bott. Goodwill values of contracts are funded by profits generated overwhelmingly by NHS income. The extraordinary premium paid for contracts reflect the huge profits in pharmacy as otherwise each sale would fail as the purchaser fails to meet their financial obligations on repayments of purchase loans. 

Charles Whitfield Bott, Pharmacist Director

When you are looking to value a buisness you  think about what the repayments will be. This is a function of the amount you borrow and the interest rates. I would suggest the only thing that has caused goodwill values to hold up is very low interest rates. Conbine this with a lack of supply and you find people stretching themselves to buy. I suspect that a  rates hike will cause more consolidation in the market that the cuts.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

An intelligent explanation Charles. But I think the point John was trying to make was the obvious disconnect between what the sector actually believes, as evidenced by its actions, as opposed to what they'd like the rest of us to believe i.e. shops will close, etc. You don't buy 21 shops if you believe cuts will force shops to close.

Charles Whitfield Bott, Pharmacist Director

You may buy 19 good ones and a couple of rubish ones, its an overall price after all. IF you can close a few and move the scripts to others that you now own or owned already you have just got the same turnover with less overheads (more efficent if you believe the DoH). My point is that there is not a level playing field for contractors. Small independands and large verticaly intergrated multinationals are not the same thing, a point that was made in the parlementry debate. I am glad I opened my first contract 6 years ago and now own a part share in 3 because I could not see a route to ownership now and the prospect of working for boots et al is not a good one.

Personaly I like the access scheme, but think that if you have more than 100 shops you should be excluded, but the gov thinks that it must be blind to the size of the PLC!

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

You may buy 19 good ones...

I wish I could afford one! Unfortunately that seems to be an unreasonable expectation for my generation.

Jupo Patel, Production & Technical

Many contractors are making money hand over fist. C&D continue to perpetuate the austerity myth which exists only for employees, Locum and support staff.  This has been the case for over ten years before any announcement of cuts and is insult to the intelligence of those who are well aware of this. That C&D with their friends B***s et al continue with this fiction is embarrassing.

Jupo Patel, Production & Technical

The tissue of lies will eventually unravel with or without C&D.

Paul Dishman, Pharmaceutical Adviser

For at least three decades the great and the good told us that if we provided extra services for free, then the powers-that-be would ultimately recognise how essential such services were and would then pay us for them. All those particular pigeons have come home to roost- anyone providing MDS for 28 day prescriptions and not 7 day scripts is stark staring bonkers

Charles Whitfield Bott, Pharmacist Director

Lets get this right, we are currently paid for doing MDS, it may not be enough, but we are paid. Anyone doing MDS from 28 day scripts are not bonkers, they are just not commiting fraud. You can only ask for 7 day scripts if it is pharmaceuticaly justified. This may be the risk of overdose in some patients or the high posibility of waste if the paitients drugs are probably going to change frequently. The vast majoirty of patients should get 28 day scripts.

Jupo Patel, Production & Technical

Don't be a door mat though ! Haha

Jaz Kaur, Pharmacy

Paul, Boots do MDS for 56 and 84 day scripts. says it all really.

Paul Dishman, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Boots are welcome to them, Jaz.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Well said. I'm sick of hearing that 'pharmacy must prove itself' etc. when all we ever get is the crumbs.

Nailesh Patel, Community pharmacist

Totally irrelevant organisation
Doesn't represent indie contractors and really does not care about legitimate issues raised.
Try asking their information dept difficult questions and they will blank you it has happened to me
Waste levy that funds the PSNC

What is this "we" claptrap? Makes no difference to sue Sharpe what the outcome is. good of her to suggest that pharmacies carry on with the miriad of free services despite significant cuts in funding.
Pharmacy through her Psnc has been loosing battles for years and will doubtless continue to do so.

S Morein, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Contractors up in arms about so called cuts. Meanwhile in this same publication Hub pharmacies purchase multiple contracts for huge premiums. So much for iminent financial ruin. Crying wolf (as contractors have for the last 10 years) is just frankly an insult to hardworking professional pharmacists.

Jupo Patel, Production & Technical

Yes very amusing. Impending Armageddon for 10 years but miraculously year on year increases in profit and shop goodwill values. Any comment by the editor ?

S Morein, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Contractors up in arms about so called cuts. Meanwhile in this same publication Hub pharmacies purchase multiple contracts for huge premiums. So much for iminent financial ruin. Crying wolf (as contractors have for the last 10 years) is just frankly an insult to hardworking professional pharmacists.

Sharon Stone, Communications

Oh come Sue, This is utter hypocrisy !

Pupinder Ghatora, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

Easy for you to say considering nothing will happen to your 6 figure salary.  You should be ashamed of yourself!!  Self serving like all other PSNC board members, total waste of levy money.

Tony Schofield, Community pharmacist

Complete nonsense. PSNC quite rightly responded with the 5 point plan. DOH were only interested in reducing the cost so ignored it. Plenty of weasel words from Mowat etc but ultimately they imposed "because we can". Sue Sharpe and Ian Strachan are the best leaders in my lifetime. Put your anger where it's deserved

Pupinder Ghatora, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

And where would that be? at my represntative negotiating body?  Oh, no I must be mistaken, I obviously don't know what they do!  At my local MP?  Oh, they don't respond, the pharmacy minister perhaps? Nothing again, I contacted him when he was first appointed and said if he wanted to know about grass rootsd pharmacy, please get in touch.  So Tony, please help me, you obviously know something I don't.  PSNC TOTAL WASTE OF LEVY MONEY!!!

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

The PSNC has been the worlds flattest smoothest doormat for years - its run by the v large multiples who are doing very well thank you and expect to carry on doing so. In the Parliamentary debate it was noted that the PSNC dont represent all contractors - ie independents and medium/small multiples and thats without the big boys doing deals behind each others backs - no wonder we cant negotiate!

and they have led us where? what leadership have they shown - examples on a pin head please...

Sue Sharpe hasnt got off her bum to protest about the shafting Pharmacists have had before, I wonder why she thinks we feel any loyalty to her now...


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