By Paul Day

Many individuals, employed or locum, worry about negative consequences for them from expressing an opinion in the workplace. Yet those delivering services and care have the most detailed understanding of the challenges and opportunities found in their practice, so their honest views are extremely valuable.

After three decades in leadership roles I recognise the benefit of listening to those at the frontline and seeing the world through their eyes. It isn’t just a respectful way to manage, it helps organisations be better and achieve more.

Unions do important work fighting workplace injustices, stopping instances of discrimination, bullying and other workplace ills and supporting individuals at time of unexpected change. However, unions provide even greater value to a sector in their role as a confident and collective voice of the workforce.

Speaking through a trade union is a mechanism through which individuals will speak truth, however uncomfortable it may be for those in power to hear. The union combines the experience of multiple members, identifies structural issues and champions suitable recommendations for improvement. This can work effectively within a single employer, or across a whole sector.

Emerging from this pandemic is a once in a generation opportunity to “build back better” as every political party and government seems to now say and the voice of the profession needs to be heard in discussions on what that means for community pharmacy.

A critical aspect will be what and how the sector is expected to deliver and how it is funded. Alongside their ambitions for safe practice and higher quality clinically led pharmacy careers, Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) members passionately believe community pharmacy needs to be better funded, particularly in England, and this is expressed at every appropriate opportunity.

However, the formal mechanism for much of that conversation with government is the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) in which we are not currently part. There are a range of priorities expressed by those who have a say in PSNC, from multinational vertically integrated wholesale businesses and major supermarkets to independent pharmacies.

A balance of power shapes the view ultimately presented to government, but a missing perspective in those discussions is the independent voice of the professionals that work across all those types of business and who will be tasked, and targeted, with delivering what is agreed.

The PDA is uniquely positioned to represent the voice of pharmacists and believes the addition of that voice would strengthen the sector’s negotiating position with governments of any persuasion.

Our response to the ‘Wright Review’ of pharmacy contractor representation and support was that as the largest pharmacists’ organisation and only independent trade union exclusively for pharmacists in the UK, we should have a space on that board and be inside the room helping to shape the future of community pharmacy.

Contractors may argue that it is their business and their money at stake. True, but its our members as part of that team that will ultimately have to deliver what is agreed. Surely this is the time to recognise we are all in this together.

Pharmacists do well when their employers do well and we suspect that independent pharmacy contractors may even find their priorities are often far closer to the views of PDA members than to those of their larger competitors.

Paul Day is director at the Pharmacists’ Defence Association.

If you want to share your stories and/or experiences with us, please send an email to [email protected]