Rob Darracott, chief executive of the now disbanded Pharmacy Voice, has denied assertions that conflict between the multiples and independent pharmacies led to its closure.
In an interview with The Pharmaceutical Journal, Darracott says he regrets the demise of Pharmacy Voice, the trade association that represented community pharmacy in England, but maintains his belief that it was the “best team” to represent the pharmacy sector.
He categorically denies there was conflict, saying it was actually the “exact opposite”.
“I can see there are some concerns right now about the sector being seen [to be] split,” he says. “But around our table — because the three associations had equal weight in the thinking processes — things were conducted in a constructive and unified way.”
Pharmacy Voice was created in December 2010 to provide a unified front to government and others in what is often seen as a fragmented sector. The organisation was disbanded in April 2017 after one of its three founding members, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), a trade body that represents independent pharmacies, decided to discontinue funding it.
It came as the NPA and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, the negotiating body for community pharmacy contractors in England, were seeking judicial review of government cuts to the pharmacy sector.
“I absolutely reject the assertion that we were not involved in doing things in and around the campaign [against the pharmacy cuts],” he says.
The High Court ruled last week that the cuts were indeed lawful.
The remaining two members of Pharmacy Voice — the Company Chemists’ Association, which represents large pharmacy chains such as Boots and Lloydspharmacy, and the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, which represents smaller pharmacy chains — were unable to continue without the NPA, which led to the organisation being disbanded.
Darracott says he has no idea why the NPA took the decision to leave, but at the time, a spokesperson for the NP said it favoured a simpler structure for community pharmacy representation and that the “independent sector must be able to make its own voice heard distinctively and powerfully”.
Darracott acknowledges concerns expressed by the independent pharmacy sector over proposals to level the playing field for hub and spoke dispensing: “[The multiples and independents] generally did not disagree,” he says. “It is a fallacy that there’s always a difference of opinion. Pharmacy Voice was created in the first place because you could barely put a tissue paper between the views of the organisations representing multiples and independents on virtually everything.”
He adds: “In my experience in the past seven years, they agreed more than they didn’t. I am not going to allow people to rewrite history and pretend that everyone was falling out all the time, which was not true.”
He believes that, without Pharmacy Voice there would not have been parliamentary debates or quite so much interaction with politicians. He proudly recalls how the group initiated the ‘Community pharmacy forward view’, which started to put “bones on an alternative vision” for pharmacy to the one promulgated by government.
Asked how pharmacy can now create a unified voice post Pharmacy Voice, he says: “You’d better ask them [the three trade associations] as they need to take this forward now.”
Darracott is uncertain what his own future holds too. He says he is “not rushing into anything” after a 35-year long career in pharmacy, which has included stints as a journalist and civil servant with the Department of Health (see Box: CV).
CV Rob Darracott
- 1981–1982: preregistration, General Hospital, Nottingham
- 1982: qualified as a pharmacist
- 1982-1984: NHS pharmacist, Nottingham, Norwich
- 1984-1991: journalist, Chemist & Druggist
- 1991-1995: principal pharmaceutical officer, (member of Department of Health community pharmacy team, lead for initial medicines management pilots, introduced NHS waste disposal scheme in 1992)
- 1995-2000: professional services manager/executive, Moss Chemists
- 2000-2003: director of professional services, Alliance UniChem Retail International
- 2003-2007: director of corporate & strategic development, Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain
- 2007-2015: chief executive, Company Chemists’ Association
- 2010-2017: chief executive, Pharmacy Voice (formally in 2015)