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Why we still need a national contract for pharmacy

Many readers will have seen the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) consultation on integrating community pharmacy and general practice. No one could argue with this principle but, as the elected representatives for community pharmacy owners in England, any positivity about the consultation has for us been overshadowed by the grave threats we believe some of the suggestions pose to the vital services we provide to our communities.

This letter reflects the view of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee’s (PSNC) independent committee members and we disagree with the RPS President’s suggestion that it is “time to end” the national community pharmacy contract. The contract enables us to offer patients an excellent service. It ensures they do not face a postcode lottery for core pharmaceutical services and it is the backbone from which we offer many of the services the RPS would like extended.

The consultation offers no clue as to how the funding suggestions could work in practice and what the risks might be and, as such, we consider them a potential danger to the community pharmacy network patients rely on. Pharmacy has long been frustrated by poor local commissioning and this is manageable only because of the strong national arrangements. The arrangements enable rather than stifle local innovation and they, in no way, inhibit the development of integrated working. Indeed they make it far simpler. But the consultation asks broad questions and is not framed in a way that allows responders to explain their support for the national contract and closer integration.

Further national service commissioning is the best way to enable community pharmacies to do more for patients and we recently set out how this could happen (psnc.org.uk/5pointplan). We do not believe the changes we and the RPS want can be achieved without a national contract. Patients must be assured that they can receive the same core services from any pharmacy of their choice, and we need confidence to invest to offer them an increasing range of help and advice.

As community pharmacy owners and PSNC members we want to collaborate with the professional body for the benefit of all. It is in all our interests to develop and nurture the excellent pharmacists working in community pharmacies. But we can only do this if they are also willing. We were disappointed not to have been engaged about this consultation but we will respond to it and encourage others to do so. We sincerely hope the RPS will listen to our concerns.

Mark Burdon

North East and Cumbria Regional Representative

Michael Hewitson

National Pharmacy Association Representative

Gary Warner

South Central Regional Representative

Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20069365

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