Exclusive: The Company Chemists’ Association has told its local pharmaceutical committee representatives they are to promote the views of CCA member companies on the future of pharmacy representation, over and above the interests of the local contractor base as a whole.
Pharmacy Network News has learned that the CCA wrote to its LPC members earlier this month, telling them that while in normal circumstances they should “put the interests of local contractors ahead of any specific CCA views,” in this instance “it is important LPC members promote the views of the CCA members, as contractors”.
This is in reference to professor David Wright’s recent report on pharmacy representation and the ongoing discussions around how the report’s recommendations – which include rebranding PSNC to ‘Community Pharmacy England’ and merging smaller LPCs to create larger entities – should be implemented.
PSNC chief Simon Dukes has asked LPCs to use the summer to consider key questions such as how any major changes can be funded, and how to ensure contractors have “ultimate oversight of this process”.
Outlining its views to its LPC representatives, the CCA said any future representative structures should not cost more than the present ones, and that it will not support any changes that require an increase in contractors’ levy payments.
The organisation also believes that once a transformation plan has been drawn up, a “final contractor vote” should be held to determine whether the sector proceeds with it. “Adopting the principle of ‘one contract, one vote’ will ensure that the whole sector is fairly represented, and that ultimate oversight is given to contractors.”
CCA chief executive Malcolm Harrison advised LPC chief officers in a separate letter on August 5 that the organisation had “developed some guidance” for its LPC representatives.
He also reminded chief officers that they do not have votes, and in a passage that some have interpreted as a warning not to interfere in the process wrote: “The CCA membership strongly believes that any decisions regarding the representation of contractors should only be made by contractors or their nominated representatives.
“While we welcome the input and views of LPC officers and employees on matters of local representation… LPCs were formed for the sole purpose of representing the interests of community pharmacy contractors.”
He also told chief officers their responses to the PSNC should reflect the views of all contractors if local discussions do not result in a unanimous position being taken.
Pharmacy Network News has spoken to several LPC chief officers who were critical of Mr Harrison’s remarks, with one describing the letter as “ill-judged, contradictory and patronising… it makes a farce of the LPC responses”.
Another said the CCA’s approach risked further entrenching the divisions between independent contractors and multiples, and took issue with what they felt was a deviation from the usual principle of representatives making decisions in the interests of all local contractors: “I thought that is what being a member of a committee is all about.”
When approached for comment, a CCA spokesperson said: "We welcome the fact that the PSNC has sought to gather further views from the sector about the best way forward for the Wright review’s recommendations. The CCA membership strongly believes that any decision regarding the representation of contractors should only be made by contractors - of all sizes - or their nominated representatives.
“The review’s purpose was to ensure contractors get the best value from the PSNC and LPC infrastructure. Therefore all contractors must make the decisions about any changes made to representational structures.
“While Chief Officers, and other LPC employees, have a key role in supporting and informing LPC discussions and can express opinions, the CCA believes they should not have voting rights on any LPC responses submitted or changes adopted by contractors.”