What does your role at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) involve?
As Chief Pharmacist, I am accountable for all pharmacy practice related content and services at the NPA.
I represent the organisation and its members to national and international stakeholders, and undertake a professional leadership role to ensure that NPA members are kept abreast with changes related to pharmacy policy and practice.
There is no CEO at the NPA. How is it run?
The NPA is currently run and led by a Board of Management, under the chairmanship of Ian Strachan, which directs NPA policy, direction and operation – led by members for members. The day-to-day running of the NPA is under the stewardship of me and three other company directors.
The NPA only supports independents now, is that a strength or weakness?
The NPA represents independent community pharmacies throughout the UK — focusing on the independents is a sign of strength. We represent nearly 9 out of 10 independent pharmacies.
We also care about independent community pharmacy, and we know our members care about their communities. Their role is vital in ensuring the delivery of health and well-being to those local communities.
Where does the NPA fit into the pharmacy organisation landscape?
The NPA is with our members every step of the way, throughout their pharmacy careers.
As a not-for-profit organisation we are committed to investing in services and support for our members.
As the leading UK-wide trade association for community pharmacy, established in 1921, our purpose is to support all our members to succeed professionally and commercially for the benefit of their patients.
Through working with other pharmacy stakeholder organisations across the UK, and listening closely to our members, the NPA can influence decisions taken by UK governments and other organisations to protect the interests of our members across the UK and in Europe.
What are the main benefits of being an NPA member?
Our members are at the heart of everything we do.
The NPA provides protection, advice, support and representation to our members.
Pharmacists are required to offer advice and make decisions that can have a significant bearing on peoples’ health and wellbeing. Often working in relative isolation, without ready access to their peers for encouragement, advice and support, pharmacists can be exposed to many risks and errors can have serious consequences.
NPA membership can fill the gap and provide precisely the encouragement, advice and support pharmacists need.
The NPA is with members every step of the way from studying to be a pharmacist to selling up and retirement, and all the steps in between.
The NPA stands up for members and independent pharmacy by lobbying governments and maintaining a high-profile in the media. We provide essential services, including professional indemnity insurance and pharmacy business advice and we offer high-quality training courses.
How do you keep in touch with members?
The NPA maintains strong ties with members on a personal level and through regular contact with NPA publications like our members’ newsletter, regularly updated website and our in-house magazine, inpharmacy.
We also hold regular member events in all UK countries, like policy forums, webinars and CPD seminars; which also provide a strategic focal point to meet, share and network with the NPA and other members.
Members can also share their views and communicate directly with the NPA, myself and other members, by following us on Twitter and liking us on Facebook.
Personally, I keep in touch with members at face-to-face events around the country. I also communicate with members daily by telephone and e-mail and I regularly send Superintendent alerts highlighting important matters affecting the profession. The Scotland NPA Representation manager Janice Oman, is also in close contact with Scottish members and is in regular contact with me
How do they have input into the organisation?
Our members remain at the very heart of the organisation and all our products and services are tailored to our members’ needs.
We also hold regular Policy and Practice meetings and member forums across the UK where members are invited to attend and share their views on matters affecting community pharmacy. Members also offer their input by piloting new services and products for the wider membership.
They also play an active role in NPA campaigning and key events like Ask Your Pharmacist Week.
The NPA is spending a lot of time supporting the fight against the cuts in England. Has this affected support for members in Scotland?
It’s important to understand that the Support Your Local Pharmacy campaign is not only – or even mostly – about current cuts. It is actually an effort to re-set strategic policy direction, which in England is currently pointing away from local pharmacies and towards scaled up, centralised models of service instead. That is not acceptable in England, nor can we risk those ideas gaining traction such that they infect other parts of the UK.
The NPA is committed to getting the best deal for pharmacists across the UK and while we have been fierce in our support for pharmacies south of the border our commitment to Scotland is just as strong.
Our Scotland Representation Manager Janice Oman is a valuable resource for Scottish NPA members, supporting members in their pharmacies or at Scottish NPA events. We regularly produce country specific member resources as well as UK wide support.
Last year we developed several Scottish specific Standard Operating Procedures, a handy guide to the Scottish Drug Tariff and the NPA Scottish Patient Safety Online Reporting service as a few examples. In recent months we have launched two specific Scottish member services, one for online near miss and error reporting and analysis and the other is an innovative Pharmacy Performance marker.
Are there elements of community pharmacy in Scotland you would like to see in England?
The Scottish pharmacy contract has some excellent examples of services which would be ideal if available from all English, Welsh and NI pharmacies. The Minor Ailment Service, EHC, Smoking cessation services and Unscheduled Care in particular.
What needs to happen to release the full potential of community pharmacy?
Community pharmacy is a huge asset to the NHS, patients and other health professionals. Government need to recognise the high value that community pharmacists bring to the health of patients. Governments need to enable stability of the network of community pharmacies so that pharmacy owners and the whole pharmacy team can continue to invest in providing effective services that benefit the NHS and public health.
What’s your view on the future for pharmacy generally, and particularly in Scotland?
In these stretched times for the NHS, pharmacists are being recognised as health professionals who can take a greater role in patient care, particularly in primary care. Pharmacies are in the right place, near and convenient to patients, with experts in medicines available without appointments. I believe in the future that community pharmacy will be the first place patients will think of to go for advice, support and treatment and that this will be not only for health but will widen to include social support.
Scotland is piloting extending the Minor Ailment service in scope and eligibility. Evidence from this type of development of pharmacy services will help secure community pharmacy across the UK.