The National Pharmacy Association’s board and committees convened on 13-14 January in Belfast

16 Jan 2020

Acting Chair of the Board, Andrew Lane, reports:

The NPA board met in Belfast, where we were able to combine our usual activities with an evening reception for NPA members and stakeholders in Northern Ireland, including the newly appointed Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, Cathy Harrison, and the chief executive of Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland, Gerard Greene.

Our presence here coincided with a significant development in Northern Ireland politics, namely the re-establishment of the Stormont Executive. The governance situation in Northern Ireland over the past two years has made it hard for the health service to pursue transformational improvements and maximise the benefits of community pharmacy for the population. Let’s hope that can now begin to change.

The Policy & Practice committee once again considered the issue of hub and spoke dispensing, which has in theory potential to improve efficiencies, but presents serious risks too. One of our principal concerns is that any developments should be on a level playing field for independent pharmacies and mustn’t entrench unhealthy market dominance by the major wholesalers. The government has committed to “allow all pharmacies to benefit from more efficient hub and spoke dispensing”. If all pharmacies are to benefit there needs to be a dynamic and competitive market in which hubs compete for the custom of pharmacies on the basis of quality of service and price. Therefore, we are devising a set of ‘level playing field tests’, which we hope the government will adopt in due course.

Membership Committee received a report on the NPA’s webinar programme, which is free of charge and provides expert insight on a wide range of business and practice topics.  In 2019, we hosted fourteen webinars in total and we will be at least as active in 2020. I encourage you to take advantage of this member benefit, and perhaps consider it as part of your continuing professional development.

Other key topics on the board agenda this month included pharmacy supervision and recruitment into the pharmacy profession, which has dropped significantly.

We also discussed the matter of LPC reform. Our starting point is that independent pharmacies must be properly represented and supported to build on the strength of their relationships with patients and others locally, to deliver high quality, compassionate care. In consultation with NPA members, we are currently working up a detailed position, to share with our membership and the review team established by Professor David Wright.

If you wish to comment on anything in this brief report of board proceedings, please get in touch with your NPA regional board member, or email