PSNC’s Chief Executive and Chair reflect back on a year in which the impact of COVID-19 dominated lives, and in which community pharmacies provided a lifeline for so many people and for the NHS.
011 | Chief Executive’s Comment
In annual reports it is always tempting to look back and talk of ‘a year like no other’, but for 2020/21 I think we can very safely say that that was the case. This report covers the 12-month period starting from April 2020, at which time headlines on the PSNC website included such never-seen-before announcements as:
- COVID-19 Update: Protection of staff and managing supply
- Service Launch: The Community Pharmacy Pandemic Delivery Service
- Death in service benefits for frontline healthcare workers
- Temporary closures during the COVID-19 outbreak
COVID-19 had become the dominant topic, focus and worry for most of us, and it would remain so throughout the year. At PSNC, our aim was to do everything possible to help you, the pharmacies who we knew the public were increasingly relying on through this crisis, to remain safe, supported, and resilient to the huge challenges you were facing.
I hope this report will give you a flavour of some of the work that went on from the wins on advance payments, pandemic services and contractual flexibilities to ease pressure; to the long-running battles on COVID costs and funding.
The toughest negotiations were, as ever, about money. When the Chancellor promised the NHS would have everything it needed, community pharmacies, who were at the time some of the only primary care professionals whose doors remained open, assumed it would include them. But despite the critical work they were doing, Government were determined to constrain the support available.
We tried first to win the argument with data, and this report explains that work. The two Pharmacy Advice Audits gave invaluable snapshots into what life in a pharmacy was like during the pandemic: millions upon millions of patients turning to you for support when other parts of the NHS had failed them. And the monthly contractor surveys added to that picture giving a sense of the scale of the operational and financial pressures that you were under.
The NHS could not have asked for any more of you. And yet even with this data, and even with the outstanding role that you were playing, it took the very public support of tens of MPs, to finally get us to the deal that we reached.
As this report closes – in March 2021 – we were just beginning negotiations on the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) arrangements for 2021/22. Those too, would prove testing. But by time of publication we have a deal, and while we don’t yet know what this winter will hold, I hope that contractors have some optimism about the incredible scope they now have to expand their services offering, further cementing their role at the heart of the NHS, and as a critical part of local communities.
Simon Dukes | PSNC Chief Executive Officer
012 | Chair’s Comment
When I became chair of PSNC in September 2019 I knew that community pharmacy was an essential part of local healthcare, but the way you have responded to the COVID pandemic has clearly shown me just how essential you are.
What I have seen over the past 18 months has been nothing short of exemplary.
The demands on you have been relentless, from the ever-expanding range of new services to master, to the growing stream of patients turning to you when other parts of the health service were not accessible.
There have been significant disruptions to the ways in which you work, and you have all had to take steps to keep your patients and your staff safe.
Yet despite the enormous capacity challenges as well as the financial worries you have had, you have carried on: doing whatever your patients need, and doing whatever the NHS asked of you. The Government has been right to thank you. I hope they now match their generous words with the right level of support.
At PSNC the work has reflected some of your experiences: intense negotiations, increasingly tight deadlines, and a growing range of issues to be resolved. But the energy of both the Committee, themselves all community pharmacy contractors or contractor representatives, and the executive team has not faltered, and nor has their resolve to do everything in their power to help contractors of all shapes and sizes.
All of us who are connected with community pharmacies are proud to have been a part of this sector at such a critical time. I certainly am in awe of the part that you have all played, and I remain impressed with the work that PSNC’s small team does to support you through it all.
The next 12 months will bring further challenges but also, I hope, new opportunities. Through the Year 3 agreement only recently reached, pharmacies will finally have the chance to offer some of the clinical services that they have aspired to for so long, and for PSNC change is afoot with a new Chief Executive now being recruited, and of course the outputs from the Review Steering Group (RSG) with its aim of improving representation and support for all contractors.
Change is always a challenge, but this sector, perhaps more than any other, has shown over the past 12 months that it is more than capable of rising to those.
Sue Killen | PSNC Chair