Representing you through consultations

Helga Mangion, NPA Policy Manager

The consultations that the NPA deals with tend to come from policy makers who develop policies relating to community pharmacy and independent pharmacy sector. The consultations issued by the Department of Health and Social Care and the GPHC are absolutely key as they directly impact the way pharmacies function and the way pharmacists interact with patients.

The NPA also responds to consultations that affect community pharmacy as a consequence rather than directly. For example; community pharmacy provides many ill-health prevention services, such as smoking cessation, and these services are commissioned through local authorities. A year ago the NPA submitted evidence to a parliamentary enquiry regarding the public health department’s move to local government. This inflicted huge impact on community pharmacy as now many pharmacy services are commissioned differently. Public health itself then suffered a dramatic budget cut, which in turn affected the number of services being commissioned through community pharmacy.

The main challenge in dealing with consultations is working to extremely tight deadlines. Major consultations often allow 3 months, whereas some more specific areas may only grant a matter of weeks. In this time we are required to inform members about the consultation subject matter, gather opinions and collate them as a response. For this reason it is vital for NPA members to respond and provide their views on consultations in the time allocated, as it could have a big impact on the future of community pharmacy. Hearing from our members who are out there working and living the reality of community pharmacists is a valuable asset, particularly when consultations call for evidence.

As the NPA’s Policy Manager, I am the members’ voice. Together we can speak louder for community pharmacy and with the help of member contributions we can make a huge difference to our future. Responding to a consultation does not have to be a formal process, NPA members are encouraged to write to or simply pick up the phone and call 01727 858687 ​


The Value of NPA services

As Head of Marketing at the NPA my responsibility is to market and join up the services that the NPA provides and ensure that our members are very aware of what we offer, and also get good value from their investment in the association. I believe that it is important to make sure that the content that members receive is relevant and easy to access.

It is quite clear from the member feedback that I have seen that NPA members are amongst the best-supported community pharmacists out there, although we are happy to receive criticism and act upon it because continual improvement is our aim. The NPA’s role is to provide a high level of service and support while continuing to represent the sector and campaign on its behalf. When it comes to marketing, a local pharmacy has a network of their patients that they can contact and promote their services to. However producing marketing materials is something that the NPA can do for that pharmacy, giving them the opportunity to create an even stronger presence in the community.

If you look at analyses of which services our members value, it is heartening to see that services valued fall across the board of what we provide at the NPA. One that may be rated as best in class is our expert advice line. I can see how this is such an important service for independents, as it is a direct communication point to real-life pharmacists at our head office, who can help our members with the grey areas of decision making that they inevitably encounter on the pharmacy front line. There is an element of audit trail that goes with this; the member feels secure, confident and protected in going forward with giving advice and dispensing on the basis that the NPA has their back.

Although the NPA offers a great deal of representation, support and protection to members, there are some services that members may not even know exist. Part of the journey we are on is to increase our help to members is to make sure that all of that value and relevance is there in their everyday lives, and making sure that they know everything that we offer and where to find it. What members need now and what they will need in 10 years time could be very different, and it is up to the NPA and its members to move together and evolve. Not everything can be sorted out by an algorithm!

Indeed I believe that one of the NPA’s strengths, running through all of our services, is our connection to the real world lived by our members – a connection achieved by our long history in the sector, our total focus on your needs, and our constitution, which requires that our entire board is made up of community pharmacy owners – most of whom still practice regularly.

Author: Laura Sims, Head of Marketing, NPA


How members are the heart and soul of the NPA

My role as Chairman of the NPA crystallises to one very simple core: putting our members at the centre of everything we do.

The NPA Board and executives build policies and work programmes on the rock of a member centred strategy; it is essential that we provide members with solutions that make their lives easier, but that has always got to be underpinned by models which support their bottom line and improve profitability- and I speak quite unashamedly about that. The oxygen of a pharmacy business is cash flow, and the threat that the government has imposed will starve that oxygen supply – a high risk to small businesses not integrated with wholesalers. However, through the hard times, the NPA will be there for members, and help is at the end of the phone across our departments to help your situation.

When a professional indemnity claim comes in, the person who picks up the phone is not a clerk or an assistant, it’s probably one of our team of solicitors who are there to help straight away. Their job is to reassure you, hold your hand, and guide you through the whole process.  Our press office will also help you to handle local and national media interest in serious incidents.

This is the kind of service and support the NPA can offer to members in a time of crisis. It’s not just about solving a financial claim; it’s about ensuring that that person’s professional credibility remains intact, their livelihood is preserved, and their professional status is respected and defended. This begins from the second that solicitor answers the phone.

Over recent times we have greatly expanded our range of business support – including CheckRx and Check34 a health and safety advisory team and private PGDs.

Superintendent updates from pharmacy services are there to support the professional side of the business, and to make sure that we’re giving you the best advice that’s out there. Our Pharmacy Services department receives a phenomenal 700 calls a day, and it’s been like that for decades. These are the things that we have to preserve and hold close to us, whilst also expanding our horizons and always innovating.

One of the best things about the NPA is that it is a non-profit organisation so it all comes back. Everything that you support here gets reinvested back, and you can see that across the Support Your Local Pharmacy campaign.

From my understanding we’re the only organisation in the country, in pharmacy, that will give that kind of support which is why we’ve been doing this since 1921. The NPA is totally unique, so insurance is a huge part of what we do, but what we’re also about is getting to the heart and representing you passionately , and you can see that from the campaign. We have taken the lead on this, defended the sector and we have done that because we believe in pharmacy. Pharmacists are hard working people, they have to spin a lot of plates and be on their feet for ten hours a day. A pharmacist never knows who is going to walk through the door in the next ten or fifteen minutes. Our members are working like that every single day. It’s scary to be in that space, working hard, and suddenly you find a government comes along to try and compromise that and take away that livelihood. It becomes personal.

Our organisation personalises a relationship between the NPA and that member- because each member is individual and special and because everyone on our board is an independent like you. This is why the vast majority of independents trust the NPA to represent, support and protect them.  It’s our privilege to do so.


Author:  Ian Strachan, NPA Chairman