The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) will be launching a petition for pharmacy contractors in an attempt to combat the government’s proposed 6% cuts to the community pharmacy contractual framework, chair Ian Strachan told delegates at the Sigma conference in Jamaica on 16 February 2016.
“This is going to be a petition aimed at the prime minister and this is going to be a petition where we mobilise contractors… and patients,” Strachan emphasised, in his address to the conference via live video link from London.
The paper-based petition was launched on 18 February 2016. The NPA wanted a paper petition so customers at pharmacies could sign it; it will be downloadable and will not be closed to NPA members only. It is to complement the parliamentary e-petition which has already gathered 42,000 signatures.
However, Mike Smith, a non-executive board member at Walgreen Boots Alliance, said he believed the cuts will go ahead regardless of efforts to counter them. “I personally think the £170m is gone, despite the consultation process, but we have to change and work with the Department of Health,” he told the conference.
Amish Patel, a delegate at the Sigma conference, comments: “It almost makes the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee’s (PSNC) job role defunct… because if [the Department of Health] is going to bulldoze what it wants onto us, there is no negotiating going on.”
However, Sue Sharpe, chief executive of the PSNC, who also joined the conference via live video link, hit back, stating: “Even if your pessimism is well-founded, for goodness sake, we don’t give up without a fight.”
Earlier in the conference, Alistair Burt, minister of state for community and social care, said in a pre-recorded video message: “I would emphasise that our aim is to secure efficiencies and make savings. It is not our aim to close pharmacies.
“In some parts of the country, there may be more pharmacies than are necessary to maintain good access. [Around] 40% of pharmacies are in a cluster where there are three or more pharmacies within a ten-minute walk,” he added.
Mike Dent, chief financial officer of the PSNC, called this figure a “crude generalisation”, saying: “We don’t know if those pharmacies are in that location because that’s where a big GP is, we don’t know whether that’s because of how the population is distributed in those areas, we don’t know if they are busy pharmacies or not, and we don’t know if they service ethnically different populations.”
Source: Emma Page
Smith emphasised the importance of contractors being paid for their pharmacy services. “I think we have to make the case for payment. We have to work together — the days of the lemming-like chase for market share by offering free services is unsustainable.” However, Strachan reiterated that the NPA will defend and protect the supply function of pharmacies.
Sharpe said: “Would I say to people at this stage to start investing to deliver more services from their pharmacies? No, I think that would be premature. We need to understand exactly what they want from us before we would responsibly tell people to start investing more.”
She added that pharmacists should not stop delivering existing services until they “really have to”, warning that if pharmacists withdraw services or go on strike, they may lose the support of their patients.
- The reporter Emma Page attended the Sigma conference courtesy of Sigma Pharmaceuticals.