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Pressure mounts on RSG as questions raised over equality for independents


Pressure mounts on RSG as questions raised over equality for independents

By Neil Trainis

The National Pharmacy Association has urged the group overseeing reforms to the PSNC and local pharmaceutical committees to publish detailed proposals that ensure different sectors within the profession are treated “equitably” as uncertainty over whether independents are engaging with the process lingers.

Despite insisting only last month that it was making progress, the Review Steering Group admitted it was taking longer than anticipated to establish a set of final proposals for contractors to vote on.

The RSG said striking the right balance between national and local representation was proving “very complex” but said it expected to put proposals to contractors and hold a vote before Easter.

“We haven't heard much from the RSG yet. This is an important process for the future of community pharmacy and it is vital that the RSG publishes a detailed proposal which treats the different parts of the sector equitably,” the NPA said in a Twitter post earlier this week. 

The RSG told Independent Community Pharmacist there was still no specific date for when firm proposals will emerge and it is unclear if independents will vote in large numbers once a ballot takes place.

When asked if he thought many independents were taking an interest in the RSG's work through mediums such as the website, newsletters, podcasts, video blogs, focus group events and webinars, steering group secretary James Woods told ICP its website had received over 22,000 views since the start of the year and more than 6,000 recipients had opened its email newsletter.

However, it is unclear how many of these were in the independent sector. 

Sheffield-based pharmacist Chris Armstrong said he did not understand the process, arguing that independents were too busy running their pharmacies to spend time on RSG matters.

“To be totally honest I don’t have a clue what is going on or what the implications are. I and all other independent pharmacists are just too busy trying to spin all our other plates and keep our pharmacies open during a pandemic and also with an eight-year 60 per cent real terms funding cut,” he tweeted.

His comments drew a response from former NPA chief executive Michael Holden who said: “[It is] really important that every independent contractor votes on the proposals; the future of local and national representation and support is crucial to the future of the sector given the shift to a local NHS.”

RSG secretary James Wood told ICP: “The four independent contractors on the RSG, as well as two representatives from independent multiples, all are at the heart of the group's work.

"Regular and meaningful engagement with contractors of all sizes is vital and the RSG has worked hard to do this via a variety of channels.

“Our engagement with independent contractors is ongoing including via ongoing dialogue with the National Pharmacy Association; sharing of information via independent support groups; engagement with contractors via LPC meetings; focus groups held at lunchtime and in the evenings; dialogue with PSNC independent Regional Representatives; and regular email updates sent to PSNC’s full newsletter list.

“RSG Members remain available to engage with any contractor who wishes to contact the group. And if contractors or others have thoughts on how the RSG could better engage with the sector, please email” 

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