CEO Matthew Isom shares some insight on the years ahead for the DDA

It is a very optimistic Matthew Isom that enters his third year as DDA chief executive. Appointed on September 1, 2012 – right in the thick of the preparations for NHS reform – Matthew has had to bide his time on the issue of perverse incentives in reimbursement – and like many other representatives of the healthcare professions, not to mention, the rest of the DDA Board and the DDA member practices, he has had to sit and wait for the NHS in England to get its people and processes in place so that negotiations can begin. He admits that this has been a source of disappointment and frustration given the very specific remit of the topic, but as visitors to this year’s DDA 2014 conference will find out, the process of correcting the shortcomings in the current reimbursement system has now begun. He says: “It is now recognised that ‘no change’ is not an option. We are now talking to the right people and we have a commitment that there will be a resolution to the problem of reimbursement. My goal over the next two years is to get a good settlement in place and established, and working well for our members. Now that this issue is on the government’s radar, I am optimistic that this will be achieved.”

From BMA to DDA

Coming from the BMA, a much bigger and more complex organisation than the DDA, Matthew has found the past two years to be both a personal learning curve and a chance to adopt new ways of working. As the only organisation to specialise in dispensing practice issues, the DDA requires from Matthew a much more explicit focus on dispensing practice issues than did the BMA where Matthew’s role also included general GP issues such as IM&T and the defence fund, as well as dispensing.

The role of DDA CEO also involves much closer relationships with dispensing practices, and understanding of the increasing influence of pharmacies and the profession of pharmacy, as well as the medicines supply chain, on daily operations. Working with the DDA, Matthew has also had the opportunity to get to know the industry better. He says: “Recognising the value of dispensing practices to rural communities, pharma has become very interested in talking to the DDA and in developing educational products for dispensing practices and those that are integrated with pharmacies.” That the DDA possesses a much more streamlined decision-making structure than the BMA is a great help in ensuring that things actually ‘get done’, he says.

Transforming conference

This year’s DDA conference is another achievement for Matthew Isom. Under his direction, this year’s conference has been transformed, and for the first time is running midweek over two days, alongside the Best Practice show at the Birmingham NEC on October 22-23. Matthew describes the change of format as “long overdue” and he is confident the new format will offer dispensing practices many more reasons to attend: a much better chance to network with a much larger pool of colleagues as well as a valuable opportunity to fine-tune a wide range of dispensary management skills. (See DDA Online’s Conference News section for more information)

Importantly, he also believes the new format event will improve the visibility of dispensing practice on a much wider professional platform – which will become increasingly crucial as dispensing practices count down the months to the general election.  A key plank of the work of the DDA over the past two years has been to raise the profile of dispensing practice on the political stage, and to ensure, as Matthew puts it: “that all the political parties are aware of the DDA, that the various health teams understand the challenges of rural practice and the value of the regulatory agreements already in place, and that their manifestos do not hold anything that could be damaging to dispensing practice”. As the Welsh Assembly responds to its recent consultation on pharmacy control of entry, an immediate task will be to ensure that any new Welsh system respects the principle of patient choice.

Another key goal for the DDA will be to achieve inclusion in the Electronic Prescription Service in England. Matthew describes the exclusion as a “running sore”. He adds: “This was commissioned without thought to rural areas. To date, there has still been no commitment for core funding for the EPS in dispensing practice and I want that put right. EPS is next on the DDA political agenda and will follow right after we have achieved a corrected position on reimbursement.”

Visibly working for members

To facilitate this work, the DDA has now moved into new offices, and at the 2014 conference will be unveiling a new-look website. Among other aims, this has been completely redesigned to offer members improved information and resources and training in a wider range of dispensing practice activities. Key DDA resources such as the exclusive RWM/DTP discounts table will be directly accessible to all visitors to the site, as will reports from the 2014 Annual Conference and early bird booking information for the 2015 Conference. There will also be enhanced online resources for DDA members, including a new resource zone, where members will be able to access exclusive clinical, dispensary management and HR resources brought to members by the DDA  and also by external partners. Through an improved Integrated Medicines Provider Forum, the new site will also bring pharmacy-owning GPs information and resources to support the supply of medicines and advice in the integrated environment.

There will also be useful links, facts about dispensing practice and FAQs, as well as the daily news and feature service to help keep practices and non-practice based site visitors up to date and informed about the ever-changing world of dispensing practice.

The relaunch acknowledges that dispensing practices operate in an increasingly pressured and challenging world, and it for a very good reason that ‘Quality counts’ is the theme of the 2014 DDA Conference; it is only by demonstrating quality practice that dispensing practices will secure their future, and the quality services that dispensing patients have come to expect.

As a result of Government policy, an ageing population with increasingly complex healthcare needs, and rural population growth, previously secure ‘GP dispensing only’ areas are becoming  increasingly attractive to pharmacy applications. During 2013-14 even very rural areas of Scotland – the outer Hebrides, for example – have seen pharmacy applications, and the Dispensing Doctors’ Association (DDA) carries regular reports highlighting the threats facing dispensing practices across Great Britain.

Dispensing practice today has a clear business objective to prioritise patient satisfaction and encourage best possible use of NHS resources. In his position at the helm of the DDA Board, Matthew pledges to ensure the DDA remains committed to making quality count for you.