Any pharmacy owners who have been reading C+D will know by now that the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee’s (PSNC) negotiations with the government – or more precisely, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) and NHS England – on community pharmacy funding for 2019-20 and beyond have begun.
While we are having the discussions in confidence to enable frank and robust exchanges of views, there are some things that you can certainly expect us to be talking about. PSNC, as I have stated many times, will be pressing for a multi-year contract, and the government is interested in what community pharmacy can do to help reduce pressure on urgent care and to support the prevention agenda. One big item for discussion is what will effectively be a national minor ailments service – NHS England has made no secret of the fact that it wants to roll out the digital minor illness referral service pilots more widely.
PSNC has a strong negotiating team representing both the independent and multiple sectors, but we do not face easy discussions – pharmacy is not starting on the front foot. As a sector we have a variety of different business models and we must get to grips with challenging questions about how all of those can free up capacity to deliver what the government wants from us. I and the CEOs of the other national pharmacy organisations will continue to work collaboratively to try to answer some of these questions together.
We also have work still to do to repair our relationship with the government. The many community pharmacies I have visited are doing a fantastic job in helping patients and shielding local communities from the negative impact that the funding situation is having on your businesses. But when you are busy focusing on the patients walking through the door every day, it can be easy to forget that our primary customer is in fact the NHS.
Over the past year I have spent a lot of time rebuilding constructive relationships with that customer and we are making headway, but there are still likely to be some barriers to trust on both sides of the negotiating table. These negotiations will be the first big test of just how much repair there is still left to do, and I am determined that whatever the final outcome of these negotiations may be, we will have taken pharmacy forwards in rebuilding its working relationship with its customer, not backwards.
PSNC has a unique position in representing everyone in the sector and we will continue to use that to our advantage, finding as much unity as we can and presenting collective views. Finding common ground and taking a collaborative approach will be vital for all of us in the future and that applies not only to the negotiations but to your local approach to doing business as well.
We have this month launched a video animation on the future of the sector, which I hope starts to explain some of this and talks you through why contractors must start to look for that unity, even at a very local level. I hope that as you await the outcome of what we know are absolutely crucial negotiations, you will be able to find just two minutes to watch it, and to start thinking about how you too can start to get ready for the fresh challenges that the future is likely to hold.
Simon Dukes is chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC)