The NPA and the EU

15 Feb 2017

Alongside its equivalent bodies across the channel, the NPA is a member of the Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union (PGEU). The principal function of the PGEU is to lobby the European Parliament and Commission to try and influence European legislation. With the number of people in the EU at over 500 million across 28 different member countries, it is difficult for the powers that be in Brussels have a full, developed knowledge of how things work in each country. So the NPA, the RPS and Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland help the European Commission to understand how pharmacy operates in the UK.

European legislation can strongly impact pharmacy in the UK when it eventually arrives here. Currently, the UK authorities have very little scope to change things once it has been approved at European level.  So although Europe can feel very distant to pharmacies here, in fact there is a big impact on pharmacy business and practice. An example is the Data Protection Act which was formed as European legislation but transposed into UK law, which our members now must comply with.

In the era that the UK has been in the EU, the PGEU has been an important organisation to be part of. During that time we have stood up for our members at local level and national level, and European level when it has been called for. The PGEU elected the UK to the presidency of the association, this election took place two weeks before the referendum, so this will be the last time the UK will front the organisation. Raj Patel, who is an NPA board member, is the current President of the PGEU and has various duties this year to represent all of Europe’s pharmacies in meetings with European parliament and other bodies. He will also host an annual PGEU meeting to be held in London this year with the theme ‘Leading Change’.

Community pharmacy practice varies considerably across Europe.  Germany, for example, has a more traditional model of pharmacy where they do not offer many of the advanced clinical services you would find in the UK, and there is a very clear definition between the role of a GP and the role of a pharmacist. In the UK these lines are slightly more blurred as services like flu vaccinations can be carried out in either environment.  Germany is also notable by the fact that multiple ownership is not permitted there.  It’s a similar situation in France, Spain and many other EU countries.

The effect of Brexit on UK pharmacy will depend on the kind of deal decided when we leave the EU.  But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that Brussels will have no influence over UK pharmacy in the years to come!  For example, we still need to prepare for UK implementation of the European Falsified Medicines Directive, key features of which come into effect from February 2019.

Author:  Gareth Jones