Gareth Jones, NPA Public Affairs Manager – Europe Referendum March 13

It’s easy to think that decisions made in Brussels are remote and irrelevant to pharmacy in this country. In fact, the impact on business and practice can be very close to home. The Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland, the RPS and the NPA together form the UK delegation to the Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union. In the NPA’s Europe Referendum, you can find out how we have represented you and keep up-to-date with forthcoming changes.

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The PM’s announcement of a referendum on the UK’s membership of Europe has kicked-off a lengthy process of looking at the advantages and disadvantages of our relationship with Europe. Alongside the PSNI, we responded to a recent Government consultation and set out the impact of the EU on pharmacy. Ultimately, it’s not a simple case of saying that Europe is good or bad for community pharmacy. There are a wide range of implications of EU membership – some helpful and some not. Take for example the EU law which gives pharmacists automatic recognition of their qualification when moving to other member states of the EU. Movement of pharmacists into the UK has given pharmacy employers greater access to professional qualified staff. However, it has also provided challenges, as there is a lack of clarity over healthcare regulators’ powers to test the language skills of transferring healthcare professionals. Another example is the medicines supply chain. EU treaties permit the movement of medicines products across national boundaries within the EU and this has been beneficial for UK tax payers as medicines can be bought much more cheaply from countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy. However, the downside is that high cost markets such as Germany try to acquire cheaper stock from the UK market and pharmaceutical companies respond to this by imposing quotas on individual pharmacies. This has resulted in some pharmacies being unable to get hold of medicines and we have found evidence of significant patient distress resulting from these supply problems. Tackling the global problem of counterfeit medicines is one of the strongest examples within the health sector of an issue which can be handled most effectively at EU-level. Because medicines are manufactured and shipped all over the world, and criminals target the supply chain, an EU-response is the only effective way to protect the UK patient. A benefit of our membership of the EU has been a greater collaboration amongst pharmacy associations across Europe. Our close working relationship with our sister organisations across EU means that we have been able to bring back examples of innovative pharmacy practices from across the continent. These issues give a flavour of the reasons why it is important that the NPA represents members’ interests at EU level. I’ll talk more about our work on EU matters next month. Until then, if you have any questions about our work in Europe, please email independentsvoice@npa.co.uk.