NPA takes the long view on pharmacy policy

31 Jan 2017

In my role as Policy Manager at the NPA, I take issues of concern to independent pharmacists and develop policy recommendations in consultation with members, NPA staff and the Board. The ultimate aim is to shape public policy and influence the approach of the NHS and other stakeholders impacting our sector.

The key is listening, observing, gathering views and remaining neutral and open to all opinions about the emerging threats and opportunities for the sector and how to respond to them. Before joining the NPA, l was a practising community pharmacist for 20 years, so of course I have strong opinions of my own about what’s needed on the pharmacy front line – but as Policy Manager I balance this against many other opinions and, of course, the hard evidence.

At the NPA, we are concerned not only with current policy developments, but about the long term position too. A vital task in my job is horizon scanning and looking at the impact that government proposals have not only currently, but also will have in the future- perhaps in 5 years, 10 years, or 15. Changes that may seem superficially attractive to the sector now might, on close inspection, be dangerous in the medium or long term. I look at trends and the history of the independent pharmacy sector, as then it is more possible to predict where the future may be leading.

The NPA looks after independent community pharmacies across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and it is essential to recognise how viewpoints can differ between countries. The policy challenges themselves usually concern government legislation, but the differences between countries also lie in how the law is applied in practice. For example, looking at the current consultation on registered technicians and education standards; this is something that is set up by the GPhC, however Northern Ireland has its own regulator- the PSNI. In addition, technicians in NI are not regulated, therefore this consultation would not apply to Northern Ireland. In contrast, the hub and spoke consultation (May 2016) is relevant to pharmacies right across the UK.

I work very closely with the NPA country managers. The way that community pharmacy operates and how it is perceived differs noticeably from country to country, but there is also cross-fertilisation. Some of the models used in England have been developed from those used in Scotland, and vice versa. The systems used by Health Education England are now being applied similarly in Wales, and these are just some examples of how UK countries are learning from one another.

It is vital that the NPA is able to listen and react to the needs of the sector and its members, taking into account that each has its own priority depending on where the pharmacy is on its journey, and what it needs in order to progress.


Author: Helga Mangion