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· New pharmacy contract
Letters to the Editor
New pharmacy contract
Not welcome, not fair
From Mr I. Abrahams, MRPharmS
Full marks to Noel Baumber (PJ, 3 September p284) for his analysis of the views of independent pharmacists. I sent in my ballot paper with “abstain” written on it. This was after pleading for more time to consider the matter, both at the South Mimms roadshow, where many (mainly independents) were locked out by Sue Sharpe, and in the letters column of the PJ.
It was obvious that there was much “filling” still to be added to the contract and some pharmacists, after attending one of the roadshows, were given less than two weeks to make up their minds.
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee refused this reasonable request, citing the possibility that an election might be held in February and there would not be enough time for necessary legislation to be passed, if voting was delayed.
I say “so what?” It was obvious that Labour would be returned to power and, in any event, we had waited so long for this new contract that a few months’ delay in order to get things right was more than justified.
In the event much, but not all, of the “filling” has been revealed and we are all now aware of the tremendous amount of extra work that is now involved. Much of this work is expected to be “out of hours”. Are pharmacists not allowed to have a life outside pharmacy?” I have just been invited by our primary care trust to an evening meeting about its “clinical governance resource pack”. I resent this intrusion into my private time. It is not contractors who have asked for this deluge of “New Labour” pen-pushing activities, which are of no patient benefit whatsoever. If the Government wants us to do its bidding, then the least it can do is to fund the payment of locums so that pharmacists can learn about these new activities during working hours.
We now also have the dubious benefit of three months’ figures to shed some light on how we are affected financially. Although admittedly, these can only give a rough guide, my conversations with colleagues seem always to conclude that we may be just about “breaking even” under the new system if we are lucky. When one considers all the extra work involved, it becomes clear that independents, who do not have the resources to employ an office full of pen pushers, have been sold down the river by the PSNC.
Before we hear from the PSNC once more, that “purchase profits” were previously not really ours, let me remind them that it was well known that without these the pharmacy service would have collapsed without a corresponding increase in fees.
I therefore echo Mr. Baumber’s call for the PSNC to respond vigorously to the plight of independent contractors. Indeed, if it is not swiftly forthcoming, we should campaign for the resignation of the chief executive of the PSNC, failing which a “union” of independent contractors should be formed in order to renegotiate the contract into which we were bullied and from which many cannot escape without financial ruin.