Ian Strachan, the chairman of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), has insisted the days of fragmentation within the community pharmacy sector is coming to an end.

Speaking at the Sigma conference in Borneo, Strachan (pictured) suggested that five main pharmacy organisations in particular, the NPA, PSNC, Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) and Company Chemists’ Association(CCA), were moving in the same direction to ensure community pharmacy has a future in the NHS.

The community pharmacy sector had for years been riven by divisions but events such as the government’s funding cuts and plans to introduce a hub and spoke dispensing model have brought pharmacy’s representative bodies closer together. Indeed, Strachan spoke with a sense of optimism as he reflected on the prospects for community pharmacy.

“It’s been said many times that the bodies need to be aligned, NPA, PSNC, the RPS, PDA, CCA. They all have to play a part in delivering confidence that community pharmacy is a major solution,” he said.

“I reached out at (the Sigma) conference in India in 2015 in Mumbai and I asked for that. And I asked for it again in (2016) and (2017).

“Today, and this is where it has changed because there is a strategy in play, there is more of a willingness to talk openly across the bodies, share the responses, communications, consultations and that’s happening now.

“The common denominator, all our ambitions, has got to be for a vibrant community pharmacy network because without it, all these other models of pharmacy care will not develop either.”

One sign that the community pharmacy sector had become more united was the joint campaign launched by the NPA and PSNC aimed at stopping the Conservatives’ funding cuts. The NPA and PSNC were in the High Court together over three days last year to see if their legal challenge could halt the cuts which it failed to do. The two bodies, however, lodged an appeal.

“We have a cross-sector strategy in play now and I’m proud of that. During that campaign I had Mike Smith (Alliance Healthcare’s non-executive advisor), Cormac Tobin (former managing director of Celesio UK), John D’Arcy (outgoing managing director of Numark), all coming to me with ‘what can we do to help with distribution?’” Strachan said.

“They helped with the petitions, 2.2 million petitions. We got delays to the cuts, we delayed the dangerous hub and spoke proposals.

“I’m not saying they’ve gone away but we delayed it. We’ve binded the together. The PSNC has developed focused service frameworks. We’ve ensured pharmacy has a bigger voice at Westminster. We’ve now got premises on the doorstep of Westminster to be able to influence media, stakeholders, policy-makers, politicians.

“And we’ve stood tall to the large multiples and said ‘your business model is not our business model and it’s not for us thank you.’”