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‘Pharmacy representation must change to become more effective’

"If ever a sector’s day had arrived, then that day is surely now for pharmacy"

The representation of community pharmacy must become more sophisticated, passionate and courageous if it is to influence the government, says Ian Strachan

The 2020 independent review into pharmacy representation led by Professor David Wright had some welcome recommendations. Leadership in our sector is the most pressing priority we face right now. The sector, particularly independent pharmacies, should challenge and expect more from its representatives on a national level.

We need leadership now more than ever that can expose the shear folly of this continual sidelining of community pharmacy. For me, it’s about community access to healthcare and making more radical measures to address the capacity challenges facing the NHS. These issues must focus the minds of policy makers after the COVID-19 pandemic. If ever a sector’s day had arrived, then that day is surely now.

The early soundbites I’ve heard from the Review Steering Group, tasked with taking forward the Wright review’s recommendations, suggest it has identified some key areas for change. For example, it would seem there is a growing realisation that community pharmacy is shifting towards a more clinical frontier, which is long overdue. This shift has been a personal crusade of mine for years and something that, as a pharmacist and a contractor, I’d like to see happen.

The group’s focus on improving the openness and transparency of sector’s decision makers is also welcome. Making contractors more central to decision making is, likewise, a much-needed tactic. The most critical factor for change, however, is people. Why? Because it is people that make things happen. It is people that create followers, loyalty and change.

The representation of community pharmacy must become more sophisticated, more passionate, and more courageous if we are to influence government thinking and its direction of travel with regards to community pharmacy.

It would help for everyone to agree on the problem we are trying to fix. Is the Wright review trying to improve the effectiveness of the PSNC “with regards to national representation”, as it says? Or to restore a “single voice for pharmacy”? Or is it trying to crown the PSNC as the undisputed spokesperson for community pharmacy? Or perhaps all of these?

The Wright review and the implementation of its recommendations offer a unique opportunity to showcase, support and encourage the leaders of the future. This is an opportunity to understand their purpose, hopes and motives.

I would like to see the Review Steering Group look at how candidates involved in future leadership positions are introduced to contractors. What credentials underpin those aspiring to serve and what do they stand for? Their values, which are too often overlooked, are crucial here.

There needs to be more discipline across lobbying bodies to align messaging across the sector. All of us across pharmacy have more in common than we have differences. We have to accept that differences exist as pharmacies have different business models.

Accepting that we must strive for solutions by consensus will allow for better representation. We can’t put individual interests before the survival of the sector. We must move as one profession.

I wish the Review Steering Group well. Learning from successes and failures of the past can only pave out a better way for the future.

Ian Strachan owns Strachan Pharmacy, which has four branches in North West England, and was National Pharmacy Association chair from 2009-2018


Ashley Pharmacist , Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

Well said Ian Strachan! There needs to be more accountability, transparency and better capability in community pharmacy leadership and we all hope that the outcome from the Wright review will address that. 

Sunil Patel, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

Agree with you @Ashley. What is outlined in this article makes complete sense. 

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

Already, the knives are out for the Wright review, with the usual suspects trying to stop it diluting their mastery of the PSNc and have things their own way. 

In Reality what the PSNC SHOULD be negotiating for is Community Pharmacists, not contractors. If it did this, the success of Community Pharmacy would naturally follow... negotiating for a large subset of the Community Pharmacy sector at the expense of the rest, and particularly the Pharmacists who work in all of it, has got us where we are.

Ashley Pharmacist , Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

So Kevin you are suggesting individual community pharmacists, not just contractors, should be paying a levy to PSNC to negotiate on their behalf? You often talk a lot of nonesense in your posts, at least make an effort to inform yourself about things before commenting. The way I read it, this article is not throwing any knives at the Wright review, it's balanced and informed. 


Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

Hi Ashley, thanks for the criticism, its always good to learn!

The point I was trying to make is that the PSNC are (evidently)still negotiating on the principle of purchase profit for volume dispensing, and that is great for the large multiples, who dont care much about Pharmacy/Pharmacists, and that will inevitably lead to the hub and spoke model being adopted. Amazon, or someone like them will then eat them for breakfast.

As soon as the Wright report was published and a change in how PSNC was to be run was mooted, the protests began... we need change, not the same old same old. The part of the report which said the DoH were bemused by members of the negotiating team undermining the position of the team as a whole spoke volumes.

If they were negotiating to bring good, professional, services to Pharmacies, utilising the skills of Pharmacists, then it would be harder for non Pharmacist organisations to butt in, and the profit would still flow up the chain. Ultimately if the skills of Pharmacists in Pharmacies are ignored/ diffused much longer, Pharmacies will lose their USP and anyone will be able to get involved.

If  the PharmSoc had grasped the straw at the time of the breakup, we might be in a better place

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