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Are we seeing a return to the days of division in pharmacy?

"Does political independence come at the loss of influence?"

C+D's editor picks apart the lessons from this week's Sigma conference in Rio

“Goodbye Pharmacy Voice and hello again to the good old days of fragmentation and division.” The stark prediction of Numark managing director John D’Arcy – written in response to the news that the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) will stop funding the lobbying group – may have seemed a tad alarmist back in January.

But a month later and this worrying vision could be becoming a reality. At the 2017 Sigma conference in Rio de Janeiro, the fractures were clearly visible. NPA chair Ian Strachan addressed the elephant in the room head-on, defiantly stating that the disintegration of Pharmacy Voice – since revealed to be an inevitable effect of the loss of the NPA’s funding – will not produce a “vacuum” in pharmacy representation. “At least we’re more in control now,” he told delegates.

Whether you share Mr Strachan's optimism or not could depend on where you sit in the sector. Many independent contractors may be pleased to see the NPA cast off the multiple views (in both senses of the word) of Pharmacy Voice and prioritise the needs of its own members. But does political independence come at the loss of influence?

That’s certainly the message from former pharmacy minister Alistair Burt, who told the conference that “ministers need to know clearly who is speaking and who is in charge”. At the moment, it’s hard to see how the NPA, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), and whatever emerges from the remains of Pharmacy Voice, will be able to agree on this.

That’s the bad news. But while pharmacy representation appears to be fragmenting, the passion for the sector clearly isn’t. Whether it’s Mr Strachan’s firebrand speech (watch a clip here), RPS English board chair Sandra Gidley’s call for Olympic strength in the face of adversity, or the desire for a "sustainable pharmacy network" from Pharmacy Voice’s Claire Ward and recent PSNC recruit Fin McCaul, there was no lack of energy in the conference hall this week.

If this determination can be channeled into a joint effort that is listened to by policy makers, then perhaps we won’t see a return to the old days of division after all.

James Waldron is editor of C+D. Catch up with all his coverage from the Sigma conference in Rio with C+D's Storify here


Chemical Mistry, Information Technology

Why invite A Burt he is a waste of space as a pharmacy minister whatever he says is of no consequence suppose he got a free holiday like free loading politician do?

Mahesh Sodha, Superintendent Pharmacist

James, Kevin is right. The divisions nevre did go away. They are just underground now with the multiples having talks behind closed doors.

I have no problem with cuts when the NHS and the country is bankrupt and am more than willing to take my sahre of the cuts. My gripe is why as an indpendent should my ut be the same (12%) as the large foriegn conglomerates who are raking in massive profits twice as wholsalers and as retailers. And some don't even pay the minum wage to their staff nor pay their share of taxes!!

And there is Theresa's maiden sppech saying that every one in the country will be treated fairly!

NPA is righ to break awaua and concentrate on reprentin the independents.


Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Weeping and wailing about Uk pharmacy cuts from Brazil? You couldn't make it up! Wonder how many 'normal' pharmacists are there on their derisory hourly employee/locum rate? !  I would show more interest if it was in Bournemouth. Cut your cloth accordingly contractors! 


Steve Jeffers, Community pharmacist

Numark and the NPA are now commercial rivals in providing support to independents so its not surprising that John D'Arcy does not agree with Ian Strachan. 
Ian has lobbied on behalf of independents more effectively over the last tweleve months than Pharmacy Voice or any of the other pharmacy organsations.
Going forward , the NPA , CCA and AimP can discuss joint strategies and then present a united front to the government via the PSNC on funding matters.

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

If you think that it ever went away you are more naive than you ought to be given your position - The chances that Boots et al werent negotiating behind everyone elses back are so slim as to be nonsensical.

I read it that the breakup was because of precisely that - whats the point of a representative body that is  being ignored by its most powerful constituents?

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