PSNC Chief Executive
I arrived as the new PSNC Chief Executive in May 2018. Coming from outside the sector, I embarked on many rounds of meetings and introductions and, importantly, the first of many visits to community pharmacies. For me, never have Malcolm Gladwell’s words been more apt: “You can learn as much – or more – from one glance at a private space as you can from hours of exposure to a public face.”
Over the years, I had visited many community pharmacies as a patient, but never ventured behind the counter and experienced a pharmacy from the perspective of the pharmacy team. The potential for the NHS to use community pharmacy to a fuller and more clinical extent was very clear – but so were the challenges for the sector: the need for a multi-year deal as a platform for change; the necessity to somehow build capacity within pharmacy businesses to allow them to do more clinical services; the requirement to review and renew the funding and remunerations structures; and the requirement to repair a fragmented sector with damaged relations with HM Government, and representative bodies lacking trust in each other.
Not all of these challenges can be solved by PSNC alone, but we can and should be a catalyst for encouraging collaboration, building trust and working towards a joint vision – only then can we negotiate a future for our undervalued sector. During the period of this review, with the fantastic support of the Committee and Executive Team, we have embarked upon tackling the challenges before us: bolstering existing alliances, building new relationships, gathering data on the state of the sector from costs and capacity to the financial and mental stresses of pharmacy businesses and their owners.
Gladwell’s words also hold true for the PSNC as an organisation. A hardworking and dedicated corps of experts in their fields who collectively provide amazing value for money for contractors. For under 80 pence per day per pharmacy in 2018/19, PSNC checked the accuracy of over 1.5 million prescriptions to ensure reimbursement accuracy – highlighting thousands of errors to the NHS; negotiated over 700 price concessions with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) – preventing the loss to contractors of over £300m; and provided invaluable guidance, advice and assistance to front-line contractors and Local Pharmaceutical Committees on a panoply of topics including pharmacy services and commissioning, funding enquiries, regulatory, dispensing and legislative issues, and clinical governance and IT matters. All of these being available through the PSNC website and visited by a community pharmacy team member the equivalent of once every 15 seconds, 24 hours per day, seven days per week. In addition, during the year, PSNC lobbied, campaigned and helped to develop new services as well as interpreting the impact of wider legislative changes affecting the sector and seeking to influence this.
However, the clue is in the name, and at the heart of what PSNC does is ‘negotiation’. The Judicial Review process significantly hampered our ability to embark on negotiating a new Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework, but since August 2018 we have been able to get back on track of sorts – hampered instead by the extraordinary amount of work being undertaken by Government to plan for the UK’s exit from the EU. With a finite number of people available within DHSC, and many of them key to both community pharmacy and Brexit negotiations, we have collectively been slow out of the starting blocks. Negotiation for a new Contractual Framework should have begun in October 2018, but only actually began on the last day of this Annual Report period in March 2019.
In addition to the Executive team and the Committee, I would I would like to thank two other people: my predecessor, Sue Sharpe who has done so much to guide and shape, not just PSNC, but also the sector over the past decade – she will be a hard act to follow; and also Sir Mike Pitt who has been a font of advice and good judgment in my first few months. Sir Mike has indicated that this will be his last full year as Chair of PSNC, and the Committee in particular will miss his calm hand on the tiller and his consensual approach to Committee meetings and debate.
Finally, at the core of PSNC are the contractors we serve: they pay the levy to the LPCs which in turn fund PSNC. The parlous financial state of the sector has meant that many of our contractors have had to look at cutting costs, and PSNC is no exception. As you will see in the financial section to this report, I have embarked on cost cutting during this year and I will continue to do so in the years ahead. But without a levy increase or different approach to the way we support our contractor base, PSNC’s ability to continue to provide the first class standard of service outlined in this report will be under threat.
PSNC Chief Executive