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Rising to a new challenge


Rising to a new challenge

Acting collectively and thinking long-term will be vital for pharmacy’s future, says Michael Lennox, Integration Lead, National Pharmacy Association

I recently had the professional and personal privilege of supporting both the NPA and Community Pharmacy England in their quests to define a new vision for community pharmacy and its contract direction. Within both organisations there has been much useful and interesting debate and dialogue.

The need to adapt as a profession and healthcare sector and adopt pragmatic business changes in our mindset is critical; collectively critical, in fact.

Our destiny as individual contractors is increasingly wrapped up in our pooled destiny. No-one should take the troubles of others with gain in mind, thinking of competition as a zero-sum equation. 

We make the case to change, grow and gain better together, with the more doing this, the better it is for all. Acting with short-termism transactionally and taking market share growth in the status quo contract will not bring resilience for long.

The sweet spot

It is scary though, and knowing where we are going in the trajectory of our professional purpose via a national contract transformation would clearly help.

In the NPA’s Making Changes, Meeting Needs vision document, we set out to challenge some old ways of thinking, as well as to outline the opportunity ahead to redefine community pharmacy’s role in the NHS, and to define what a transformational state could look like.

There is a marketing principle that springs to mind called ‘MAYA’ (Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable), which guides what we need to design for an innovative future but balances it with the known and acceptable present. We had this in mind when developing Making Changes Meeting Needs.

The NPA vision was forged by the gathering of 360 degree insights (i.e. inside and outside our sector), and we believe what it is offering across the four segments in the model sits at the sweet spot of contractor aspiration, patient needs and the services that commissioners will value. 

Basing our ‘what next?’ on MAYA sweet spot thinking is what we believe gives us a viable and attractive new direction for a new deal, building logical extensions to our existing roles in the four segments of access/urgent care, prevention, long-term conditions and medicines optimisation.

The CPE/King’s Fund/Nuffield Trust contract vision work over this year, and due out after summer, will add more light to the contracting path ahead.

As we navigate the future together, there will be bumps in the path and not everyone will agree on a single best route to take. Accepting this reality, let’s seek common ground and discuss our mutual concerns honestly and robustly, yet in a respectful and constructive way.

As for those who choose to constantly position themselves as being against change, yet proffering not much in its place, I say we must pull together as a progressive majority. Unity is strength here; hollow gesture, angry complaining wastes time and brings a disruptive energy.

So what next? With the climate around our national politics, health policy and the funding pressure on the NHS pound growing, as we have likely just seen in the much reduced winter vaccination programme announcements (i.e. later, less and lower funding investment), the only way to make progress is to make positive investment cases.

Yes, we can call out poor national commissioning or policy decisions together forcefully, but in the end, we need to present a cohesive service offering that can attract the NHS future funding over others making their cases.

I am personally and professionally excited by that, as I know the pharmacy family is up for it; we have the collective skill, will and focus to forge and push a ‘can do’ agenda.

This coming autumn and winter are massive in terms of the required collective transition. Our NHS must successfully deliver on the new plan for recovering access to primary care. It is equally massive for team pharmacy as we deploy Common Conditions, operationalise the Oral Contraception Pathway and ramp up Hypertension/BP Case Finding. This along with implementing the IP Pathfinding Programme for some brave souls too.

With these four new care offerings successfully in place through 2024, we will have raised our MAYA brand offering and will have started to fulfil on our future vision promise and progressive destiny. Landing the £60K-plus per contractor financial transfusion from the £645 million Access Plan equitably and effectively is critical too. 

To close, let me reach for former USA President Barack Obama, who covered it well when he said: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek.” A big rest-of-the-year change is hurtling towards us. We are the ones to enable it, together.

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