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Outsider: A month of victories?

Outsider awaits the outcome of CPE's talks with our departmental overlords

While we wait for the £645m to materialise, there’s still time to input to CPE’s new ‘vision’. They need all the help they can get..

Gaius Octavius, great nephew and adopted heir of Julius Caesar. The man who famously saved a Republic by making it an Empire and becoming de facto King Of The World. Progenitor of the great Pax (peace) of 200 years and Roman hegemony. He also changed his name later in life to Imperator Caesar Augustus, after which the eighth month of the year is named.

August. A month named in honour of great military triumphs once achieved by a man in a toga. A month of meteor showers. A month of plentiful harvests.

It is a month of sport [aren’t all months? – Ed.], although my hope of writing a column full of victorious cricketing analogies were dashed by the weather.

What August isn’t though is a month of exciting pharmacy news to acerbically, yet wittily, deconstruct.

I am sure – perhaps hopeful is more accurate – that there is furious activity at Community Pharmacy England Towers and the Department of Health Social Care. Us mere mortals sit through August patiently tapping our feet, waiting.

Historically (albeit not quite as historically as Augustus’ time), we would be waiting for the interim contract announcement. Then, as the negotiations moved more regularly into impositions, it was the flu vaccination service we would be on tenterhooks for. Invariably, these would drop at 5:30pm on the last Friday of August, regardless of assurances from London that they would do better this year.

Now, we find ourselves waiting not just for flu, not just for the normal six- monthly contract update (although that seems increasingly to be a pointless exercise), but for the new £645 million Access Fund monies. What will this not- a-minor-injuries-service actually look like? More importantly – how much of that £645m will trickle down to pharmacy owners?

What else, what else, what else? There’s the continuing “pop will eat itself” saga of CPE’s outsourcing of what it should be doing to The King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust. The most recent product of that process is an eight-page slide deck that would be disappointing if it was presented as a project by a group of summer students.

It is not entirely discernible what the end product of this ‘Vision Project’ will be. It is due for completion this summer – of which the recent weather in Manchester has proved there is not long left. Judging by the state of that slide deck – which was shared only in the middle of July – there is a lot more vision and a lot more strategy still to be found.

You have the opportunity to engage, and I really do encourage each and every one of you to do so. The consultation on this ‘vision’ runs until the middle of the month of Octavian, I mean Augustus, and is open to all. The vision is somewhat high level – not in itself a problem – which belies the problem experienced by all such documents in community pharmacy before it – a lack of detail. Yet respond I did, and with some thought. I hope you will too.

Community Pharmacy Locals are now real things though, so that deserves a mention. There are fewer of them, and the proportion of levy they will be sending to the negotiator is a lot more than it once used to be. How that will affect the quality of support they can give their contractors remains to be seen. I suspect there will be inevitable rises in levy in some areas to maintain the support that contractors have become used to, and in some instances, depend on.

One thing I’m not sure about is the new logotypes or colour schemes. Not wishing to sound like a curmudgeon, but what was wrong with a green cross? Or a black and white cross for that matter? Or perhaps just a cross? What this abstract collection of multi-coloured children’s building blocks is supposed to represent and how it is emblematic of community pharmacy I could not tell you. What I can tell you is that it looks a bit, well... naff.

A key reason the rule of Octavian – or Augustus – led to 200 years of relative peace and prosperity is that he used his new power (and his new name) to introduce administrative reforms to the Roman state.

Emerging into power out of the chaos of civil war, his series of road building projects meant that his army and messengers could move quickly throughout Italy and the Empire. This improved communications and, more importantly, secured the tax base.

Perhaps the legacy of the long running battle between CPE and Government will be these reforms to pharmacy’s representative structures. Maybe we’ll know in September and I can write about flu and the new services. If not, tune in next month for all you didn’t need to know about the Women’s World Cup!

Outsider is a community pharmacist

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