Andrew Lane, chair, NPA

Fearful of disenfranchising the entire independent community pharmacy sector, the National Pharmacy Organisation (NPA) has called for a re-think on pharmacy representation vote, now scheduled to take place early next year.

The steering group responsible for the review of pharmacy representation in England had proposed to initiate a voting process later this year for the reform of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee and Local Pharmaceutical Committees.

The Review Steering Group aims to hold a single vote to approve or reject the proposals for future contractor representation and support at both a national and local level. A two-thirds majority of all those casting a vote will be required to approve the vote.

The NPA says under these proposals there is a real possibility that a very small number of large pharmacy businesses could outvote thousands of independent community pharmacy contractors, virtually disenfranchising the entire sector.

“The voices of independent contractors must be properly heard in this process, by getting the explicit consent of the independent sector through a fair vote,” the pharmacy body adds.

The NPA suggests that an absolute majority of all eligible independent voters should approve any new structure, as well as an absolute majority of multiples, in addition to a two-thirds majority overall. This so-called ‘triple unlock’ is designed to ensure a cross-sector mandate for change.

NPA chair Andrew Lane said: “There’s a clear case for changing the way pharmacy contractors are represented in England, especially in the light of emerging NHS structures at local level. We need a system that works seamlessly from end to end – local to national.

“However, if change is to be sustainable and legitimate, it must be widely supported across community pharmacy. The Review Steering Group has said that it is seeking to build a consensus for change, yet the group’s proposed voting mechanism falls short of what is needed to guarantee a way forward that commands the support of the whole sector.”

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