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Are we there yet?

Nothing ever seems to happen quickly in pharmacy, says Jennifer Richardson, but there are some areas where progress is being made

Nothing ever seems to happen quickly in pharmacy, does it? And I'm not just talking about funding negotiations and the decriminalisation of dispensing errors. This week C+D takes an in-depth look at two long-running sector sagas in the PDA Union-Boots legal battle (33 months and counting) and the fallout of the BBC exposé (nearly two years and the fitness-to-practise cases only just reaching determination).

It's rarely much consolation that progress in the rest of the health service seems similarly to crawl along, although Xrayser thinks it is this week as he mulls the impact on community pharmacists of 12-hour, seven-day GP access, as pledged at the Conservative party conference last week.

One pharmacy development that is forging ahead is Bestway's buyout of the Co-operative Pharmacy, with the cash-and-carry wholesaler group formally taking control of the 771-strong multiple this Monday. A major new entrant to the market certainly speaks highly of community pharmacy's perceived business value to those outside of it, and the new owners confirmed to C+D this week their plans to invest even further in growing the chain.

There is still not enough incentive for pharmacy businesses to invest in services at the level that the government and commissioners seem to agree is needed

It's telling, though, that while incumbent contractors – particularly multiples – and sector representatives have spent the past few years ramping up talk of investment in services, this newbie has made no bones about the fact that dispensing will be its "first priority".

This market entrant – as it seeks a return on its £620 million investment in community pharmacy – has made clear its intention to dedicate its "greatest amount of time, attention and focus" to prescriptions. This only serves to highlight once again – this time with the clarity of fresh eyes – that there is still not enough incentive for pharmacy businesses to invest in services at the level that the government and commissioners seem to agree is needed but do not seem willing to put sufficient and stable money behind.

That said, patchy and stop-start though it may be, progress is being made on service development, as Devon LPC's determined efforts prove. In fact, just as C+D went to press this week, the team told us that it had secured another £130,000 in funding to train pharmacy staff in healthy living advice and deliver a winter minor ailments service.

A national and year-round version of the latter remains the goal most often cited by pharmacists and representatives in their hopes for contract development (other than simply more cash), and PSNC regularly confirms that it remains one of their key priorities.

However, with cross-party consensus on localism in the health service confirmed during the political conference season, and negotiations for 2015-16 funding yet to begin, this looks evermore like yet another thing we shouldn't expect to happen quickly.

Jennifer Richardson, Editor [email protected], @CandDJennifer

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More from Jennifer Richardson:

Lessons to be learned on reporting errors

Pharmacists have been told to get involved with their LPN, but how?

Three dangers of GP opposition to pharmacy flu jabs

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