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  • Conflict did not lead to demise of Pharmacy Voice, says former chief executive Rob Darracott

    Rob Darracott, chief executive of the now disbanded Pharmacy Voice, has denied 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 categorically denies there was conflict, saying it was actually the “exact opposite”.

    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.

    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.”

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