By patient representative Graham Prestwich

Four themes stood out for me at the symposium, which was organised by NHS England/ NHS Improvement.

Firstly, the language used, ‘deprescribing’, is not the best and not always helpful. Everyone I spoke to recognised this and, as a wide variety of people are involved, the most appropriate words may vary.

Clearer descriptions will and must emerge as this work progresses. What was agreed is that this is about improving health and wellbeing, about making sure that people for whom medicines are no longer beneficial are no longer prescribed them. Good quality care invariably costs less for everyone involved, and most of all for patients themselves. The healthier we feel, the better – and the less likely we are to require health services.

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By Simon Dukes, chief executive PSNC

You may well be thinking that primary care networks (PCNs) is just another primary care shake-up. In some ways it is – but there are some important ways in which this one is different for us.

First, this change is going to reroute a lot of primary care funding directly through networks of GP practices while specifying seven key services that these networks must deliver.

Some of these services are due for roll-out from April 2020 and they include structured medication reviews (by clinical pharmacists), enhancing health in care homes, anticipatory and personalised care, supporting early cancer diagnosis, CVD diagnosis and prevention, and local action to tackle inequalities.

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My mobile phone network knows that unless it keeps me happy I can easily (well, quite easily) move to another network. The same cannot be said about PMR systems.

It is very difficult to move to another supplier – particularly when the big companies provide pretty much the same offering in terms of price, service and technology. I just don’t get any sense that they view pharmacies as customers, and they seem to have little interest in the way that our businesses are changing.

Unless we can find a way to change this dynamic, the gap between what our technology can do, and what we want it to do, will grow and grow. This could potentially be crippling to pharmacy businesses in an age when customers are increasingly chasing digital by default and struggle to engage with analog pharmacy systems.

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Communities across Wales have a special affection for their local pharmacies, says NPA relationship manager for Wales Steve Simmonds

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*By Alexander Humphries

I’ve known this person for years. She is a dispenser, seen it all, tough as old boots, bless her – which made me sit up and take notice when she started to get upset when we chatted recently. Normally it would take a herd of rhinos to stop her, but this day she was really deflated.

“How is your new dispensing system working out for you?”, I asked. “Not good,” she said. “We all have had to cut our hours. I’ve had to apply for another job because I can’t afford to lose the hours.”

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By NPA head of communications Stephen Fishwick

The road to success is rarely one taken alone. That is why the vast majority of independent pharmacies choose to be members of the National Pharmacy Association. For nearly 100 years, we have brought community pharmacists together, to pool resources, learn from each other and move forwards together.

In tough times the sector needs to stick together to develop solutions that benefit everyone and underpin progress at scale. That’s why we’ve chosen Forwards in Partnership as the theme for our national conference in Manchester on June 20. The conference is a collaboration between the NPA and Pharmacy Magazine, so the idea of partnership is at the very heart of arrangements.

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By Alexander Humphries*

Our main wholesaler has now missed four afternoon deliveries in a fortnight. Twenty per cent of our deliveries have failed to arrive as a result. Our business, like every other pharmacy, relies on a just-intime supply chain, meaning that when things go wrong it immediately causes us a problem. Work starts to back up and patients are kept waiting for their medicines.

When we complain to the driver, he tells us that the reason he misses us out is that his employer will not pay him overtime in order to complete his deliveries. This is unbelievable as we’re talking about a multi-billionpound organisation here, but it just shows, if true, how much contempt there is for us as customers.

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By Alexander Humphries

The last month or so has been one of the toughest times I have ever known in pharmacy. My team is at breaking point and a wave of staff sickness has left our service hanging by a thread...

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Many NPA members are paying out more in bills to wholesalers than they are being reimbursed by the NHS

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By Alexander Humphries*

Whatever you think about Brexit, it is going to do nothing to improve the medicines supply chain. Every other business sector in the UK is being advised to make preparations for a no-deal situation, but in community pharmacy we have our hands tied behind our backs because we’ve been told not to stockpile.

In fact, pharmacies should have been slowly building a buffer for a long time, because it is obvious our civil servants couldn’t organise a proverbial in a brewery. I’ve had not one, not two but three letters warning me that consequences will follow for anyone daring to disobey the teacher on this issue.

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