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Pharmacy business models 'too diverse' for strike action

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Pharmacy business models 'too diverse' for strike action

There is little possibility of pharmacies in England going on strike over Government intransigence on funding, delegates at the Pharmacy Show heard in a panel discussion yesterday.

Responding to an audience member who asked whether it was time to force policymakers to recognise the sector’s difficulties through taking strike action, contractor and former NPA board member Ian Strachan said: “Like it or not, you’ve got to defend and represent your business model. It’s hard to pull the sector together when your business models are very different.”

He pointed to a strike in Ireland some years ago that stumbled when Boots did not participate.

Business owner Mahesh Shah, who also sits on an integrated care board, echoed this: “As much as I understand the sentiment, it’s never going to work with different multiples, regional multiples and others not singing from the same hymn sheet. It’s never going to happen.”

AIMp chair, business owner and PSNC negotiator Peter Cattee said that while he viewed the withdrawal of labour as a “fundamental human right,” the idea of strike action was “completely impractical”.

To do so would penalise patients for the Government’s mistakes and put businesses at odds with staff who do not wish to withdraw patient care, Mr Cattee said.

Asked how the sector can move on from the current flat funding model, Mr Shah said: “We’ve got to make a business case to transfer money from secondary care to primary care, and then within that, rather than GPs getting all of it we need to get our fair share of that additional funding based on what we deliver.”

He said that locally he had managed to persuade commissioners to reconsider the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service model – which he said still forces patients to use their GPs as a first port of call – and to explore a more direct-to-pharmacy model similar to Scotland’s Pharmacy First service.

But there has to be funding over and above the current £2.592bn annual package to achieve the change the NHS wants, Mr Shah warned.

Numark managing director Jeremy Meader said the Government and NHS England must recognise the sector’s value through fair funding, commenting that at present “the pain is being felt by anyone operating a pharmacy in England”.

He added: “If you look at the numbers, over the last few years since 2019 its mutltiples who have reduced the number of pharmacies more significantly than anyone else – 698 [stores] have been dropped in the last four years.”

Last week property company Christie & Co posted figures suggesting that Rowlands Pharmacy reduced its branch estate by over 10 per cent in the 12 months to March 31, while Boots and LloydsPharmacy divested around 80 branches each.

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