The Government wants to see a shift in community pharmacy away from the traditional premises model to a medicines supply solution that deploys digital technology at the expense of face-to-face contact. However, there is no future for pharmacy without the supply function, NPA chairman Ian Strachan warned delegates at Sigma's international conference, taking place this week in Rio de Janeiro.
The Government is driving to reduce expenditure on pharmacy by commoditising supply, he said. But this approach is “misguided, unevidenced, fails to ask the right questions and shows a basic lack of understanding.”
It has been trendy for some to dismiss dispensing as “mundane”, he continued. “Disrespect the supply function at your peril,” he warned. “We have to protect supply and the premises-based model. The DH’s hub and spoke agenda hasn’t gone away.”
The Government’s reform programme that the NPA and others are trying to influence is so fundamental to contractors’ future that, in his view, the sector has only two years to persuade ministers’ of its case otherwise “we could see the demise of the community pharmacy premises [model] on the high street”.
With independents’ dispensing market share (over 50 per cent of items), the sector shouldn’t just accept what the Department of Health wants. “We should be in there telling them what automation and supervision look like, for example, and what would work.”
That was the kind of leadership he wanted to see in pharmacy – confident, robust, arguing the cause, less “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” and “being nice”.
“I want us to have more fire on our bellies,” he said.