News Archive: UK

From Mark Koziol, Chairman of the PDA

 

There have been many important developments affecting the employee pharmacists in the UK and the Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) now with 22,000 members (around half of all practicing pharmacists in the UK) has been at the very forefront of representing their interests.

 

Strategic direction

 

Unlike in mainland Europe, in the UK, the pharmacy multiples are entitled to own as many pharmacies as they wish. Today, they own more than 60% of all community pharmacies. The majority of community pharmacy employee's now work for one of the large multiples, regularly they receive sales targets and many of them complain that these are unrealistic and unprofessional. In an attempt to try and reclaim the professional agenda, the PDA has been urging the government to consider issuing contracts for the delivery of Pharmaceutical Care not just to owners but also to individual pharmacists that do not own a community pharmacy. The idea is that doctors who have already diagnosed patients with long term conditions and who have prescribed them a complex poly-pharmacy regime, should transfer such patients to specialist pharmacists who then routinely monitor and re-assess their medication, making changes to their medicines regimes as necessary.

These Pharmaceutical Care services can then be provided by named pharmacists to patients in (for example) residential homes for the elderly, hospices, at the homes of patients and elsewhere. This service is 'patient centric' and not 'pharmacy centric'.

 

The PDA has expended very considerable effort and energy in this strategic plan and has spent a lot of time lobbying the governments and the healthcare policy leaders.

 

The United Kingdom is made up of four countries, England (the largest) Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and each country controls its own healthcare and pharmacy policy. Although there are many similarities, in recent years each country's policy towards pharmacy has begun to diverge.

 

The good news is that in September 2013 the PDA strategy, which is based on individual pharmacists holding contracts to deliver Pharmaceutical Care has been agreed by the government in Scotland. The government has called this strategy "Prescription for Excellence" and it has made a lot of pharmacists in Scotland very happy, as they will now be able to reclaim their professional position and not always have to work for a multiple employer.

 

This is also very good news for the pharmacists working in the other three countries as it now becomes much more probable that such a policy will also be agreed elsewhere. The PDA continues to lobby the other countries and in October, the PDA submitted its Road Map strategy to the English government. We are now busy lobbying the government in England.

 

 

Union Recognition

 

For more than two years, the PDA has tried to get formal union recognition with the largest community pharmacy employer in the UK; Boots the Chemist.

However, Boots has consistently refused to grant permission, preferring instead to deal with its own internal association called the Boots Pharmacists' Association (BPA). However, in the view of the PDA, the BPA lacks members and also lacks independence because it is very reliant upon Boots for supporting its general operation. This, in the view of the PDA, casts doubts over the ability of the BPA to truly represent the interests of Boots employee's. In 2012, PDA took its request to a government body called the Central Arbitration Committee for them to make a decision. After many months, legal representations and even a special hearing where both sides were represented by expensive legal experts, the Central Arbitration Committee agreed that PDA should be allowed to proceed to the next stage of its formal application, which is to decide whether an independent ballot of Boots pharmacists should be held.

 

However, Boots the Chemist are very unhappy with this independent decision and they are going to great lengths to prevent the PDA from being formally recognised. Boots have now decided to take the government body – the Central Arbitration Committee to the High court for a judicial review. The judicial review hearing was held in October and we currently await a decision of the court. We sincerely hope that we will make progress and that very soon more than 6,000 Boots employee pharmacists will finally be able to enjoy independent collective bargaining rights to negotiate their salaries and other conditions of employment.

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