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Tick tock, ring ring

By Outsider

The deadline for the Community Pharmacy Assurance Framework (CPAF) passed last month and with it, an unknown but not insignificant number of pharmacy owners will have sealed their fate. The CPAF this year will start the clock ticking on a slow but inexorable process that will lead to the closure of pharmacies that fail to meet the Healthy Living Pharmacy standard.

There are at least two pharmacies near me that appear to have never adapted to these standards, and never will. One is, admittedly, constrained by the premises it occupies, but it seems to be living in a different era. The last time I went inside, the medicines counter was dominated by a promotional display of single use 35mm cameras next to a Chupa Chups unit. 

The other pharmacy is different, but at the same time so very similar. Judging by the footfall and its prominence in the local community, it’s apparently thriving but ignorant of the passage of time since dispensing was the only thing you had to occupy yourself with all day.

What will become of these two pharmacies and the people whose lives revolve around them? That’s uncertain. The first is probably unsavable. It’s certainly unsellable, having been on the market for years. The second? Maybe there is a chance of redemption, but the owner will need to raise their head out of the sand that is the dispensing bench before the tide comes in and washes them away.

Meanwhile in central London, a telephone rings…

“Hello, ACME Executive Recruitment Services here. How can I help you?”

“Err, well, we’re looking to recruit a new pat… I mean figurehead leader for our national organisation.”

“Okay, well, we can definitely help. What calibre of individual are you looking for?”

“We’ll need someone with experience in dealing with complex negotiations. Organisational change. Really good communication skills. Ideally, someone with a proven public sector resumé that demonstrates their calibre to our stakeholders. And they’ll need to be happy to have all of their achievements wiped out by petty infighting from their employers: us.”

“Say, what?”

“Well, we’re a nationally recognised negotiating body – a committee of 32 disparate voices. We negotiate on behalf of one of the four primary care professions in the NHS. However, we really like to spend most of our time arguing between ourselves and not agreeing on anything, so we need a leader who will make us look like we’re ‘leading’ but who lets us sit exactly where we are, in our own entrenched positions, whilst we go off briefing against them to NHS England and the Government.”

“But you said you want someone experienced in leading organisational change…?”

“Exactly. We need someone so experienced in leading organisational change they can lead it nowhere…”

Of course, none of us have any real idea how PSNC intends to recruit its next ceo, but you could be forgiven for thinking the recruitment process would not be dissimilar to that described above.

The appointment of Simon Dukes was one of the most progressive appointments in the sector in the last 20 years. He was forthright about his views on how the negotiating body and the sector were performing. 

It was not always pleasant to hear. A man with experience of the sharp end (allegedly) of Government decision making, he was a breath of fresh, if not always welcome, air in the sector.

His first challenge was rebuilding from the failed judicial review. Relationships with your paymaster are understandably strained when you have spent the last 18 months taking them to court. There must be a period of recovery after an experience like that, where you cannot expect to achieve anything more than catching your breath, and though the five-year contractual settlement was financially unsatisfactory, it at least served as a breakwater from the preceding era.

Calm waters would not last for long though. Shortly after commissioning of the Wright Review, the pandemic turned everything on its head. The costs incurred by the sector, emotionally and financially, would come to dominate the narrative as Mr Dukes led the sector into yet another round of contract negotiations. Whilst the outcome remains unknown at the time of writing, there is, if not optimism, at least reduced apprehension about it.

The impact of Mr Dukes’ exit will not be felt immediately – the bulk of the negotiations appear done, if not yet announced. The sector should be worried though. What does it say of an organisation when it cannot keep its chief executive for their contractual term?

Outsider is a community pharmacist




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