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After engaging with contractors and stakeholders of NHS Community Pharmacy, the pharmacy review steering group (RSG) is planning to put to vote the proposal on contractors’ representation and support later this year or early 2022.

The group, made up of representatives from the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, Company Chemists’ Association and independent community pharmacy, was formed in late 2020 to explore the future of community pharmacy network support.

Currently, the RSG is working with contractors, Local Pharmaceutical Committees (LPCs), Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), trade bodies and other stakeholders within NHS Community Pharmacy to further develop and evolve the potential options for models of future contractor representation and support.

The group aims to reach an agreement over the best approach for contractors by September 2021, and to put the same to vote towards the end of this year or early next year for community pharmacy contractors to accept or reject the proposal.

Developing a new approach or model refers to looking at the functions followed by LPCs and PSNC, exploring issues with those and finding ways to improve.

The new representation model would detail the role of national and local bodies.

Pharmacy owners receive a wide range of important services and support from LPCs and PSNC. Given their critical roles, and the money that contractors pay for them, it is important that local and national organisations are both working as effectively as possible, RSG Secretary James Wood said.

It should also mean that the duplication between local and national organisations is reduced and that everyone’s focus is directed onto high-value activities that best support contractors.

According to the RSG, the national representative body should perform the following functions:

  • Provide information and briefings to contractors on matters relating to the local commissioning of NHS services and the local NHS environment
  • Provide support and facilitate integration at a PCN level
  • Engage with local media to support pharmacy’s local voice
  • Respond to local consultations by NHS ICS and HWBs on behalf of local contractors

And key functions for local representative bodies will be to:

  • Support the local implementation of nationally specified services, through established relationships with other local NHS bodies.
  • Represent the community pharmacy voice locally within relevant healthcare and local authority systems
  • Inform the national negotiation through provision of local insight to national body

“The aim is to get better and efficient services from PSNC and LPCs and the entire ecosystem for the contractors,” Wood said.

“The RSG is working on behalf of the whole sector to bring about change to contractors and contractors-led process and have the aims and principles of Wright’s review at the heart of its work, to get the best possible outcomes for contractors and their future,” he added.

The RSG was set up to take forward the findings of the independent review of LPC and PSNC activities led by Professor David Wright, which concluded that contractors’ satisfaction could be significantly improved. The recommendations included:

  • Introduction of independent governance of both LPCs and PSNC
  • Reduction of variation within LPCs and efficiency improvement
  • Development of a new national vision and strategy for community pharmacy
  • Commitment to listen better to contractors so their voices are better heard at all levels
  • Appropriate resourcing of PSNC to enable better negotiation outcomes and support of LPCs

One of the design principles guiding the RSG’s work is that ‘Contractors across the network should pay an equitable levy for the same level of representation and support.’

Another principle states that the ongoing annual costs to contractors across the entire network should not increase as a result of this programme.

These principles will continue to be taken into account as we work collaboratively to design the new models for local and national representation and support, said Jennifer Johnston RSG programme management advisor.

After the vote, RSG aims to work with the key groups to start implementing the new ways of working for contractor representation next year, she added.

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