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 independentsvoice@npa.co.uk or simply pick up the phone and call 01727 858687 ​

 

The NPA in party conference season

Building on the success of last year’s conference activity, the NPA will have a stand at each of the major political party’s conferences in the coming weeks.

Pharmacy has a vital role to play as an essential part of primary care. That’s why we will be at every major UK-wide party conference, standing up for our members and demonstrating our vital role in the ongoing fight to save the NHS.

Our aim is not only to demonstrate the fantastic work we do but to educate and inform policymakers on the opportunities that a fully engaged community pharmacy sector can deliver on. To this end, we’ll be creating debate by running fringe events at each of the conferences attended by MPs, peers and activists, to showcase exactly how community pharmacy is so valuable.

At our stall, we’ll also be running blood pressure tests with CardioClinic for MPs and conference attendees, to showcase a new service that the NPA is developing, about to be trialled in Essex and Gloucester – another way in which pharmacies can help relieve the mounting pressure being heaped on our GPs and hospitals.

We’ll be updating you with all of our activity, including photos of the events and video updates, via social media and on our website – you’ll be able to find it all, updated live at www.npa.co.uk/conferences

A watershed moment…

Something remarkable happened last week. For the first time in the history of community pharmacy, we received commitments in the manifestos of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat Parties.

Why?

Because, after all the hard work, campaigning, researching, tweeting and MP hand-holding, our sector is finally becoming politically relevant.

The national media coverage in opposition to the cuts has certainly focussed minds across the political spectrum.

The countless meetings held with MPs over the last two years have also educated our Parliamentarians about all those things we do that they had previously taken for granted and assumed ‘just happened’.

But, above all, it’s the 2.2 million signatures collected in support of local pharmacies that has proven to candidates and political parties alike that support for their local pharmacy can actually win votes at this election.

We have to be realistic – we do not command anywhere near the political clout of GPs and junior doctors. This was plain to see when the BMA’s well-timed intervention on practice funding was able to punch through to the national broadcast media even as Theresa May was stepping up to the podium to launch the Conservative Manifesto.

But as someone who has worked in and around politics all his life, I sense that perceptions are truly starting to change. Doors that have remained firmly closed to us over the last 18 months are starting to be left ever so slightly ajar.

And please, never underestimate the power of a manifesto pledge.

Despite the cynicism that surrounds political promises these days, manifesto pledges are still taken very seriously and you can rest assured that the NPA will be holding whoever forms the next Government to account. For our part, we will enthusiastically embrace these pledges from the political parties – making it clear to them that we noticed, and that we are telling as many people as possible about the promises they have made.

I trust the reasons for doing this are pretty obvious…

But despite this remarkable achievement for community pharmacy, we still have a long, long way to go. And your involvement in this election is a crucial part of that journey.

I mentioned last week that we have developed tools to support our members and the public as they seek to make clear to candidates what pharmacy really means to them and their communities;

They include an election pack for our members, containing a poster and leaflets. Also, we have redesigned our popular Lobby Your MP Tool to reach out to candidates too. By visiting election.supportyourlocalpharmacy.com you’ll be able to see the details of all your local candidates and send them a personalised message, outlining how much you value your local chemist.

I’d encourage you to use these tools to full effect ahead of the Election on 8 June. With a concerted effort from you, combined with our own exciting plans for after the election, we have a unique opportunity to create a sustainable future for community pharmacy, where the respect you have earned from those you serve is matched by the politicians and officials that govern us.

Chris Ford, Head of Parliamentary Affairs, NPA

New Government, new opportunity?

Politics – some love it (myself included), most hate it but we all talk about it and we all have an opinion. For pharmacy, politics has been centre stage for at least the last 18 months with no sign of this changing in the foreseeable future.

The public have certainly made their feelings known to Government on just how important community pharmacy is to them; in the midst of the Brexit referendum, a change of Prime Minister and a junior doctors’ strike, Community Pharmacy collected over 2 million signatures protesting plans to cut its funding – a petition that would prove to be one of the biggest in UK history.

It’s quite clear to anyone prepared to listen – voters do not want funding for pharmacies cut, they do not want services reduced and they categorically do not want their local chemist to close. With that message still ringing in the ears of candidates up and down the country, pharmacy has become an important issue in this latest election campaign.

Capitalising on the relationships we have built with key Parliamentarians, we have already exerted a formative influence on pharmacy policies within all three of the major UK-wide parties’ manifestos. And this influencing will continue as we redeploy our lobby your MP tool to target candidates at this election (more on this next week). In fact, much of the information we would like policy leaders to known can be found on a dedicated website, developed in collaboration with all the major representative bodies for pharmacy: https://pharmacymanifesto.com/

The NPA continues to take the lead in helping our elected officials understand exactly why it is we are so valued by the communities we serve. But, for all our political experience and expertise, the best advocate for pharmacy will always be you. Whether you are a local pharmacist providing vital health services to your local community, or a user of community pharmacy that depends on the services we provide – you need to speak out at this election.

If you run a community pharmacy – don’t let what you do be taken for granted. Help those seeking election to understand the vital work you do, not only in the safe distribution of medicines but also in preventing avoidable visits to our already hard-pressed GPs and Accident and Emergency Departments. And let them know how much more you could do, with consistent support from Government.

If you are a patient who depends upon your local chemist, let candidates know how you feel when they knock on your door. Make them understand what the face-to-face contact and reassurance that only your pharmacy can provide, means to you.

In the end, only you have the reach and credibility to make politicians truly understand the value of pharmacy.

Next week, I’ll take a look at some of the ways the NPA can help you to get through to these candidates; including new tools we are developing to make this easier than ever. We’ll also explore the progress of the election to date, the latest ‘winners-and-losers’ in the opinion polls and – most importantly – what this all might mean for pharmacy as a newly elected Government begins to emerge.

Chris Ford was recently appointed as Head of Parliamentary Affairs at the NPA. He has previously worked for several MPs, a US Senator, the UN and as a political advisor to a number or large corporations and trade bodies. He is also a politician himself, having been elected as a Parish and District Councillor in May 2015.