In an interview with C+D last week (January 15), PSNC chief executive Ms Sharpe – who steps down in May – discussed what she felt have been her main successes and failures during her time in the role.
Her “real regret” is that the negotiator had not been able to “get really good, strong evidence of how members of the public use pharmacy, and the role [pharmacies] play in our communities”, which is “something that holds us back”, she told C+D.
The 2016 PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the value of community pharmacy – which PSNC commissioned – was “a great piece of economic analysis”, but it “didn’t get under the skin of the diversity of communities”, Ms Sharpe said.
However, “it’s not particularly a job for PSNC, it’s a job for the whole of pharmacy, to prove the value [of the sector]”, she stressed. “In today’s environment, if there’s no data [about the sector] then...it’s not valued.”
MURs and NMS among successes
Ms Sharpe said the introduction of medicines use reviews (MURs) in 2005 and then the new medicine service (NMS) in 2010, along with “the appreciation that pharmacists have clinical skills”, were among the “great successes” that PSNC has achieved since she joined the organisation in 2001.
PSNC was “very lucky to get NMS commissioned despite the recession”, she said. It was “a really important milestone” – even though the “speed and pace” of developing community pharmacists' role has since been “held back” by the sector's “funding crisis”.
Ms Sharpe suggested that PSNC could have achieved more during her time in the role, but had been “constantly frustrated by NHS reorganisations, and funding pressures that have hampered the efforts of local pharmaceutical committees to develop local services”.
“Dark days” are behind us
As she approaches the end of her tenure at PSNC, Ms Sharpe told C+D she feels the negotiator has emerged from the “dark days” at the end of 2015 – when the Department of Health first announced its planned cuts to the community pharmacy budget in England.
“It highlighted just how easy it is for people simply to look at the data available – which is one billion prescription items – and not really look beneath it to see what the [sector’s] role is.”
She attributed the improving relationship to the arrival of Steve Brine as pharmacy minister, who she says has been “clear and positive” in meetings, and “taken every opportunity to say ‘maybe [the government] hasn't been using community pharmacy properly’.”
“Its early days, [but] I think we’re having dialogue and responsiveness that we simply didn’t see in 2016 and the first half of 2017,” she said. “We have made really good progress.”
“Keep the faith”
In a parting message to the sector, Ms Sharpe urged community pharmacists to “keep faith in the role [of the pharmacist] in the future”, despite the “acute” financial pressures on the sector.
During the interview, Ms Sharpe said pharmacies with "a lot of debt" are in "a really desperate position", and answered readers' questions on purchase profits and generic price hikes. Read C+D's story here, and watch Ms Sharpe respond to readers here.