New NPA chair prompts long-standing board member to resign

After eight years’ service, Mike Hewitson has resigned with immediate effect following “the election of a vertically integrated wholesaler” to the post of NPA chair.

Former NPA board member, Mike Hewitson

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has elected a new chair, prompting a long-standing member of its board to resign in protest.

Mike Hewitson, who sat on the NPA board for eight years, resigned with immediate effect on 23 April 2018 after what he described as “the election of a vertically integrated wholesaler” to the post of NPA chair.

Nitin Sodha, the NPA’s former vice-chair and managing director of regional multiple, Knights, was elected as the new chair following the tenure of previous chair Ian Strachan.

Knights operates more than 50 pharmacies, based mainly in the Midlands and north of England.

Sodha is also a director of the independent wholesaler, Lexon, which describes itself as the largest independent wholesaler to independent pharmacies in the UK.

Writing on Twitter, Hewitson said he was “not accusing any one person or company of anything”, but he said “
The NPA has surrendered moral leadership on critical issues” of price-setting by wholesalers, stock shortages, a decline of service levels by vertically integrated wholesalers.

“Never have the interests of the independent sector and wholesalers been as far apart. To ensure our continued survival as a profession, we must move away from a contract that is based on prescription volume and purchase margin, but this is in fundamental opposition to the needs and actions of wholesalers.

“At a time when NPA members face an existential battle for survival, made more difficult by the behaviour of wholesalers, large and small, this represents an insoluble conflict of interest.”

Coincidentally, Hewitson’s resignation comes on the same day it was revealed that pharmacy minister Steve Brine said the government would open negotiations on a new community pharmacy contract that could move away from rewarding higher dispensing volumes, and towards a contract that rewarded care provided for patients.

Brine’s comments came in a letter to All-Party Pharmacy Group chair, Kevin Barron.

The cost of generic drugs has caused huge problems for community pharmacy over the past few months, along with difficulties in the concessionary pricing system.

Talking to The Pharmaceutical Journal earlier this month, Hewitson described the situation with generic pricing since September 2017 as “absolute hell”.

“Pharmacists have been taking a leap in the dark every month. It has gone beyond a joke now costing contractors thousands every month,” he said. “We can’t sustain this anymore.”

A spokesperson for the NPA said: “We are very sorry indeed that Mike Hewitson has felt it necessary to leave the NPA Board after eight years of exemplary service. His contribution over that time was immensely valuable to the NPA and to the independent pharmacy sector we all feel so passionately about.”

On his election as chair, Sodha said: “It is an honour to be chosen to chair an organisation so central to the history and the future of independent community pharmacy. After four years as vice chair, I look forward to continuing to work hard, with my board colleagues and the NPA staff, in the interests of independent pharmacies and the patients they serve.”

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, May 2018, Vol 300, No 7913;300(7913):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20204738

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