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Four months and counting to ICSs

Screenshot 2022-05-06 at 11.31.00.png

Four months and counting to ICSs

By Jeremy Meader

Integrated care systems (ICSs) will have a profound impact in the years ahead concerning what we do, how we get paid, and the size and nature of our network. Although their introduction has been delayed until July, community pharmacy needs to be fully prepared. 

It will not be an overnight revolution, but the direction of travel is clear: shifting funding from dispensing to service provision and ICSs increasingly assuming commissioning responsibilities for the community pharmacy contractual framework (CPCF).

Are current community pharmacy representative structures – national and local – fit for purpose for this brave new world? Or do we need to recognise that these changes are going ahead, whether or not we like them, and develop a strategy and structure which best represents the interests of the sector as a whole from independent through to national chain? That is the question being addressed by the pharmacy representation Review Steering Group (RSG). Engagement and focus group events have been held; online discussions and trade media debates have reached out to the sector. 

Change creates concerns much as night follows day. Some embrace it whilst others find it disconcerting. But the RSG process has surfaced concerns and ambitions for the future. I hope they are being addressed in a mature manner.  

Numark is a unique organisation. Its membership includes independents, multiples and Rowlands. Our commitment to support each and every member remains sacrosanct. We are a family of pharmacy owners whose diversity creates value for members, patients and the NHS. 

A one-size-fits-all model simply will not work in our complex healthcare system: together, our diversity makes us stronger, whether we are talking to the Department of Health and Social Care, ICSs or primary care networks. We cannot stand still while the world around us moves on. Leaving representational structures and responsibilities ‘as is’ will leave all of us disengaged from shaping the future of healthcare provision.

We need the structures which enable us to be a positive, progressive and effective voice in that ongoing debate, but we need to ensure that our tried and proven mixed economy can continue and indeed thrive. We need to make change work for us, and that requires redefining the roles and responsibilities of the PSNC and LPCs alike. 

We must put the collective interest of our sector first and not engage in factional division; service commissioners have no interest in that. Instead, let us recognise there is more that unites us than divides us in navigating what may be uncertain and potentially stormy commissioning waters ahead. 

Whatever the RSG recommends, Numark will apply an acid test: does it promote the commercial and professional interests of all of our members?

Jeremy Meader is managing director, Numark

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