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Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee

General News

PSNC - The word from your committee members

This month Bharat Patel, independent contractor, LPC co-chair and PSNC regional representative for the East region, talks about the work of the PSNC Negotiating Team and his hopes for the future.

What is your role on PSNC?

As a regional representative on PSNC I represent contractors in the East region and in committee discussions and decisions I am always working to do what I believe will be best for them and their businesses. I am a member of the PSNC Negotiating Team at the moment as well as sitting on the larger Funding and Contract Subcommittee, which discusses the funding negotiations before they are overseen by the full committee, and I am a member of the Review and Audit panel.

As well as my work on PSNC, I am an LPC co-chair and chair of the National Pharmacy Association. Through my dual role in two key pharmacy organisations I try to ensure seamless working between the two – in the current tough NHS environment, pharmacy does need its organisations to be working together wherever possible.

What were your first impressions of PSNC?

Before I was elected onto PSNC I was chair of Essex LPC and although I had good relationships with the executive team at PSNC – who often came to speak at our LPC meetings – I was quite critical of the committee. At the LPC we thought we were being short-changed all the time. But when I joined the committee I was amazed by how complex all of the issues being talked about really were, and I was pleased to find that the contractors who make up the committee really were at the heart of every decision being made – all of that is still true now.

And what is the best part about being on PSNC?

I have always felt very privileged to be elected onto PSNC and to represent contractors in my region, and I like to be as open as I can be with them about the committee’s work and discussions. At the moment I am very much enjoying my roles on the Funding and Contract Subcommittee and the Review and Audit Panel, and I am lucky enough to be a member of the negotiating team.

Working on the negotiating team has been fascinating, not least comparing my business experiences with those of the country as a whole. As a business owner myself it is especially pleasing that the negotiating team has several independent contractors on it so that things are discussed from their perspective as well as that of the multiples and we can ensure that we try to look after everyone.

So what is it really like being on the negotiating team?

Although very interesting, being on the negotiating team, which at the moment is meeting with the PSNC executive team twice a month to steer the discussions with the Department of Health, can be tough. Going through the Cost of Service Inquiry and analysing the data within it so that we can use it to make the best possible case to the government about what funding pharmacy needs is a very complex process.

Contractors have been very patient waiting for the negotiations to concludeand we are extremely grateful for that at this challenging time. As a regional representative, it can be difficult not being able to share all the details of our discussions with them via public forums. However, the Department of Health demands confidentiality and actually it is the right way to do things – if we were to share our detailed arguments and comment on them in public it could seriously undermine our position in the negotiations and so lead to less favourable outcomes for ourselves and all other contractors.

What do you think 2013 will bring for pharmacy?

Well of course the economic climate is very tough and like all healthcare providers pharmacy is going to have to deal with its fair share of that. As a business owner I know that I can’t expect to get the returns that I want to get any more – we have to be sensible in our expectations. But pharmacy has always risen to challenges in the past and we do have reasons to be positive. With PSNC working to secure a multi-year funding settlement we should be able to give all contractors some more certainty so that they can plan for the future; and as a sector we are making great progress in moving to a services rather than a supply-led role. That developed role will mean we have a great deal to offer the reformed NHS and its patients, so I think it is cause for some confidence.

What is your favourite pharmacy service to provide?

I have two pharmacies, which I run along with my wife and we employ two other full-time pharmacists so we are able to provide a range of clinical services for our patients. I am still very much involved in the business and although I spend a lot of time in the office doing the business admin, I do work in the pharmacies one day a week and to cover holidays.

I do enjoy offering services to patients, but my favourite would have to be a private weight management service which we used to offer. I found it very satisfying as it involved a lot of clinical testing, looking at patients’ blood pressure, BMI, etc, and it made a real difference to patients when they made progress. It’s that sort of service that I think we need to see pharmacies offering and I’m pleased that we are seeing a slow evolution in the sector towards that.

Do you have any advice for contractors at the moment?

One of the biggest challenges for pharmacy businesses is cash flow, so getting on top of that has to be a priority, and there are things that can help. Going through invoices and your prescriptions to make sure that really are getting every penny that you are entitled to is sensible, and contractors could consider measures like the government’s recently announced low-cost finance scheme. It’s also important to seek help if you need it – I would advise contractors to turn to their local LPCs for advice if they are struggling.

Posted 20 March 2013

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