Pharmacist Harpreet Chana is head of pricing at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), which represents the interests of community pharmacy contractors. Her role focuses on the Drug Tariff, reimbursement from the NHS and prescription pricing accuracy — and trying to ensure that pharmacists are receiving a fair deal.
What is your professional background?
I qualified as a pharmacist in 2006 at Tameside General Hospital in Lancashire. I became a pharmacy manager for an independent community pharmacy in Salford for a year before I took up a regional manager support role for a small multiple, moving to a branch and area manager role within the same organisation. I then moved to United Health UK where I worked as a medicines management pharmacist, ensuring that primary care trusts across south east England were getting the most out of their Scriptswitch prescribing software through effective training and prescribing data analysis.
Why did you decide to take on a role at the PSNC?
I am passionate about community pharmacy and enjoy helping and training people, so a role working with the organisation that is at the cutting edge of the field appealed to me. I wanted the opportunity to make a difference by working alongside leading representatives from across the industry and helping them make informed policy decisions about reimbursement areas.
With a background in training and data analysis together with an understanding that community pharmacy reimbursement is a complex issue, I also wanted to work with fellow pharmacists and pharmacy owners to help with their queries and overall understanding of community pharmacy funding.
What are your current responsibilities?
My role as head of pricing covers Drug Tariff policy and reimbursement, and prescription pricing accuracy. I am the Drug Tariff policy lead, which means that I am responsible for negotiating policy changes to the Drug Tariff with the Department of Health. I am also responsible for resolving reimbursement queries from contractors and local pharmaceutical committees (LPCs).
Additionally, I oversee the PSNC’s prescription auditing activity at the National Audit Centre in Enfield and act as the PSNC’s chief liaison with the pricing authority (NHS Prescription Services), working closely with them to improve overall prescription pricing accuracy.
What did you learn as a practising pharmacist that helps in your current role?
I could not perform my current role without the knowledge and skills I gained from working in practice because this provided me with first-hand experience of the daily pressures faced by pharmacists and their teams. I always take these into consideration when making any policy decision to ensure that any changes do not inadvertently impact practice.
My previous roles also provided me with valuable insight into the commercial and operational running of community pharmacies, as well as hands-on project management, training and problem solving experience. These skills have been crucial in my current role, where I am faced with challenging queries on a daily basis that arise from the complex pharmacy reimbursement rules.
What do you enjoy most about the role?
Nothing is more satisfying than achieving a favourable outcome for pharmacy contractors who have called because they believe they are facing an insurmountable challenge and are unsure of who to turn to for help. Pharmacists can be unaware of the PSNC’s role and how much we can do to help so it is always nice to exceed expectations.
I am proud of the Drug Tariff education events that I have held for pharmacy teams — most recently, a webinar attended by more than 1,300 people — because they are always well received and help improve understanding of a complex topic.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role, and how do you overcome this challenge?
Pharmacy reimbursement is, understandably, an emotive subject for pharmacy owners and the current national funding structure can lead to some complexities at an individual level that can be difficult to resolve. It is hard to explain to someone that he or she will have to accept an adverse impact to their income and this does not get easier over time.
I always try to do my best to achieve a favourable outcome and working for the PSNC is unique in that we can use what we learn from individual cases to help inform wider policy discussions in order to avoid any further recurrences of the same issue.
Did you find anything surprising about the role?
Yes — the amount of work the role involves and the amount of work PSNC does. I was expecting to join a large diverse organisation but we are actually a small team of people, mostly made up of pharmacists and those from a pharmacy background. This means we are all passionate about our roles as the representatives of community pharmacy.
We all work on our individual policy areas and then rally around, helping each other deliver the information the committee needs to make important policy decisions and keep contractors’ best interests at heart in everything we do.
Would you recommend a similar career to a preregistration trainee?
Definitely. I would say to anyone entering the world of pharmacy that it is a diverse profession and does not need to be limited to working in community, hospital or the pharmaceutical industry.
However, I would recommend that newly registered pharmacists practise in their chosen field for some time to gain a good grasp of working processes and issues faced before they can then consider moving further. Think outside the box and constantly evaluate working methods and procedures to see how they can be improved. This shows willingness, enthusiasm and the ability to use one’s initiative.
What are your personal career plans for the future?
I enjoy training and helping others to learn — I have learnt an immense amount in this role about community pharmacy funding and reimbursement and I know this is an area that remains a source of huge confusion for contractors. I would like to continue educating contractors and their teams on these areas and the Drug Tariff to help improve understanding.
Ultimately, I would like to develop this aspect of my role further and I would perhaps consider teaching undergraduate students or preregistration trainees.