It is a singular injustice for Sue Sharpe and others to say that it is unacceptable for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) to suggest aligning the community pharmacy and the GP contracts. Their main argument seems to be that these are contractor-only issues, and not a matter for the professional bodies. I'd beg to disagree, even though I am a contractor.
Our members – be they contractors, employees or locums – are affected professionally and wholly operating in environments negotiated by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) and Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW).
To argue that the professional body has no say in a professional vision, development, training requirements, risk, delivery, meeting expectations, workload pressures, the development of a no-blame culture, poor staffing levels or even bullying by non-pharmacist store managers is about as naive as arguing for the abolition of volume-based reimbursement.
The community pharmacy contract isn't perfect but it has delivered many things, including stability and valuable national clinical contracts – most recently the national flu vaccination service. The RPS has not criticised this and, in my mind, aligning some of the enhanced tier of our contracts with general practice is not too radical a change to the existing network. In fact, this is how the current contract was sold to us in 2005.
Aligning the contract develop programmes to reduce competition and increase both collaboration and cooperation. No matter how efficient either professions are at delivering their own contracts, major paradigm shifts in progress on all levels will never succeed if our two contracts continue to be separate and foster competing drivers.
Who would argue against improving links, commissioning, read and write access to the whole patient record and stopping the direction of prescriptions that seeks to undermine our existing contractual framework, among other things? Not only would our roles be more recognised as we help GPs meet funding targets, but outcome-focused contracts would alienate those GPs who've been marinating in self-interest for too long and who bedevil any attempt to develop community pharmacy services.
So, while I agree that it is not the role of the RPS to be directly involved in contractual negotiations, it doesn't stop us strongly supporting service procurement for patients and the public. We also want to help ensure that future enhancements to public health delivery are underpinned by a fair return for contractors and the pharmacists who work for them so that increasing roles don't automatically translate into increasing bureaucracy, stress and workload.
All pharmacy organisations must have a responsibility to ensure pharmacists and GPs work better together, to look beyond traditional silo working and to see the bigger picture. Only by pooling our resources and networks, such as the RPS's Pan-Pharmacy Information Management and Technology Group, will we be able to benefit our whole profession, the NHS and our patients.
Sid Dajani is a contractor, treasurer of the RPS, UK delegate for the Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union and chair of the Pan-Pharmacy Information Management and Technology Group of the RPS
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