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Editor’s view: Our negotiators must change the narrative


Editor’s view: Our negotiators must change the narrative

Concessions over excess margin and transitional payments can’t mask the fact that the contract is dead in the water, writes Pharmacy Magazine editor Richard Thomas

It is, on the face of it, an extraordinary admission by a lead negotiator to say, in effect, ‘we’ve been talking to the wrong people in Government’.

It is probably the sort of remark you can get away with once in the early days of your tenure. Yet recent comments made by PSNC chief executive Janet Morrison get right to the root of the sector’s funding problems.

Community pharmacy in England has signally failed to prove its worth and value to the dead hand of the Treasury controlling the purse strings.

The years 4 and 5 contract settlement satisfied absolutely no one – PSNC, contractors, probably not even DHSC.

If my personal experience of talking to delegates at this month’s Sigma conference is anything to go by, pharmacists are disillusioned, angry and extremely concerned about their future.

So what now? These has been much talk of “turning the dial in pharmacy’s favour” and “radical reform of the contract”. This is all the more pertinent not just because of the scale of the funding crisis that is such an immediate threat to the viability of the sector, but because negotiations on a new contractual framework post-2024 will be the most important in a generation.

Strengthening PSNC’s negotiating and influencing capacity is a must, clearly, but as Morrison correctly identifies (as did Professor Wright before her), the starting point must be a clear vision, strategy and message that everyone buys into. Fair and sustainable funding will always be the keystone but why let NHS England make all the running?

Change the narrative. Articulate a bold offer that places community pharmacy right at the front of a progressive agenda of advanced clinical care, prescribing, local commissioning, population health, health digitisation, pharmacogenomics – and more.

Easier said than done, of course, when vested interests make a unified voice seemingly impossible to achieve. This must change. Put differences aside. The future of the sector depends on it.

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