Pharmacy organisations have been responding to the threat to pharmacy funding, PSNC's rejection of a proposed funding agreement and new pharmacy schemes announced by the Department of Health.

Here are their statements in full.

A joint statement from PSNC, Pharmacy Voice, National Pharmacy Association, Company Chemists’ Association and Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies:

· Announcement on services has been timed to draw attention away from looming cuts

“Although we note today’s recognition of the role that community pharmacy can play in the provision of urgent care and the pilot on the emergency supply of medicines, we are disappointed that this scheme has only been commissioned as a pilot. We are also confused by the references to minor ailments, because we do not believe that what has been set out is in any way the sort of minor ailments service that is needed to really take pressure off urgent care services. Instead the NHS will simply seek to direct people to pharmacies in order to receive advice and to purchase medicines as they would already do.

More importantly, this announcement is being made in the midst of planned funding cuts for community pharmacy. These cuts could have a much more significant impact on patients, leading to a scaling back of pharmacy services and even possible unplanned pharmacy closures. Pharmacies cannot deliver new services or pilots if they have to cut back staff or worse. This announcement has clearly been timed to draw attention away from the looming cuts, but it once again highlights the contradiction at the heart of the Department’s position – asking pharmacies to develop new roles and services whilst stripping away the investment necessary to make it happen.

Using community pharmacies to help patients get quick, effective access to care for minor ailments, reducing the demands on general practice, offers less costly, quicker, more effective care, and the refusal of the NHS to commission a national minor ailments advice service from community pharmacies reflects badly on the Government’s concern for our communities and for the NHS.”

Comment from Pharmacy Voice chair, Claire Ward:

· Anger and disappointment and a bitter blow to community pharmacy

“Pharmacy Voice has reacted with anger and disappointment at today’s news that the Government has failed to agree the funding package for community pharmacy contract for 2016-17, and that the sector now faces an imposition of dramatic cuts over the next 18 months.

“With the sector now facing cuts of hundreds-of-millions of pounds from December, the Government risks putting patient care, services, local businesses and jobs at risk.

“The news of the scope and scale of the cuts follows a series of delays in decision-making from the Department of Health as it was forced to shelve key aspects of the reforms and struggled to respond to concerns raised by community pharmacists, MPs from all parties and the 2 million people that signed the largest health related petition in the country's history.

“Pharmacy Voice Chair, Claire Ward, said: “This is a bitter blow to community pharmacy after all our hard work to demonstrate the value we bring to the NHS, public health system and wider society.

“Through the counter-proposals and the Community Pharmacy Forward View, the sector has advanced a future for the sector that will not only enhance efficiency but will also ensure its long-term future, with patients at its heart. The fact that Government currently appears to be unwilling to match our ambition ­– despite the evidence, its own warm words for the sector and the out-pouring of support from pharmacy users – is extremely disappointing.

"Nonetheless, we remain committed to working in partnership with national and local colleagues, and to playing our part in relieving pressure on our hard pressed GPs and A&E departments

“Attempts to justify these cuts with superficial arguments about pharmacy clustering, inefficiency and investment in ‘pilot schemes’ have been misleading, and are quite simply not supported by the facts. I fear that the burden of these changes will now fall on those least able to bear it. We will be closely monitoring and highlighting the impact the cuts have on pharmacy teams and their patients over the coming months. 

“At the same time, we will continue to work with our members and other national pharmacy bodies to support the ongoing campaign and to advocate for the long-term plan for the sector within the Community Pharmacy Forward View. We will build on the enormous good-will we have generated within Parliament, amongst the public and with NHS and Local Government colleagues in support of an expanded role for pharmacy within primary care and public health. 

“In the meantime, I continue to urge the Government to halt these damaging and costly plans, and instead take up the sector’s offer to work in collaboration and partnership to secure the clinical services, employment opportunities, and community support that pharmacy teams across the country are uniquely placed to deliver."

National Pharmacy Association chairman, Ian Strachan:

· A contradiction in asking pharmacies to develop new roles and services while stripping away the investment necessary to make it happen

“The announcement is clearly timed to draw attention away from the looming cuts planned by the Department of Health. In reality it highlights the flat contradiction at the heart of the Department’s position – asking pharmacies to develop new roles and services whilst stripping away the investment necessary to make it happen.

“Pharmacies cannot deliver these services if they have to cut back staff. They cannot deliver a service if they have been forced to close.”

“The schemes look to fall far short of a properly funded nationwide scheme that would have transformational benefits for patients and the NHS. It’s a smoke screen. I don’t sense any conviction in it”. 

“The Government has now acknowledged the unique potential of community pharmacies in urgent care. Health Ministers should follow that logic and back pharmacies more fully to take pressure off stretched GPs and hospitals.”

· The Government’s approach is a betrayal of its promises and shows a complete disregard for the wellbeing of patients, who have made their views known through their response to the petition

"The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has reacted with fury to the news that pharmacy funding talks have broken down, following confirmation that the Department of Health wants to press ahead with massive cuts.

"Earlier this year, a decision was delayed after a record breaking two million petition was delivered to Downing Street.

"The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has rejected the Department of Health’s proposed funding package for 2016/17. The proposed package includes cuts that will, if implemented, see patients suffer as services are withdrawn. The Department will now have to propose a revised package, or impose their proposed funding changes on England’s community pharmacies.

“The Government’s approach is a betrayal of its promises and shows a complete disregard for the wellbeing of patients. Millions of worried patients have asked the Department of Health to think again. Politicians from all parties are against the cuts. Yet elements within Government seem determined to press ahead with this damaging experiment, deaf to the nationwide protests.

“There is a flat contradiction at the heart of the Department’s position – asking pharmacies to develop new roles and services whilst stripping away the investment necessary to make it happen. Pharmacies cannot deliver more if they have to cut back staff. They cannot deliver a service if they have been forced to close.

“This is a dangerous experiment. We have seen no official assessment from Government of what the consequences will be for patient care, although we know full well that people will suffer, including some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“The Pharmacy Minister said this week that final decisions have yet to be made. If that is the case, he has to seize this final opportunity to change course. If he does not, he should know that we will not accept this meekly. We owe it to the millions of patients who have supported us to continue to safeguard the pharmacy services they rely on – including the most vulnerable of the patients and communities that we serve.”

Royal Pharmaceutical Society England Board Chair, Sandra Gidley:

·  The NHS emergency medicines supply service is already tried and tested and there is no need for further piloting – it should go live across England without delay

“We are deeply disappointed that the Government has not changed its approach to funding cuts this year and alarmed that further cuts have been announced for next financial year.

“Funding cuts will not improve the quality of care for patients delivered through community pharmacy. Pharmacists will not be reassured by this two-year deal, which guarantees less resource for front line care. We fear for patients, the public and pharmacists who may be significantly affected by changes in opening hours and staffing levels in community pharmacy, as well as the knock on impact on already pressured GP and A&E NHS care.

“How the Pharmacy Access Fund, which the Government says should guard against reduced public access to pharmacy and increased health inequalities, will operate, is still unknown. We would expect certainty around which pharmacies will receive support from the Pharmacy Access Fund before the scheme is implemented.

“The lack of news on the promised Pharmacy Integration Fund defies logic at a time when greater integration of primary care services to improve patient care is such a priority for the NHS. We call on the Government to make good on its promise made in the original letter of December 2015 “to bring pharmacy even closer into the wider primary care and community health system”, so we can see improved patient care through better use of pharmacists in care homes and urgent and emergency in the years to come.

“Patients and the public expect and deserve high quality care from community pharmacy, the drive for efficiency from community pharmacy that the Government is looking for is in danger of becoming a race to the bottom, where only those offering low cost, rather than high value services, survive. We want to see greater investment in direct patient care to enable community pharmacists to deliver responsive health services face to face with their patients.

“The intention for the implementation of a national NHS emergency medicines supply scheme through pharmacy is good news for patients. However, the NHS emergency medicines supply service is already tried and tested, with fantastic results that have both improved patient care and freed up time for GPs. There is absolutely no need for further piloting of a service that is badly needed as we head towards winter. This needs to be implemented across England without further delay.

“We also need assurance that the Government is serious about a national NHS funded minor ailments scheme through pharmacy. Any NHS minor ailments scheme needs to be true to the founding principles of the NHS and be free at the point of use. Patients and the public need a fully integrated NHS service, only then will we see people change behaviour, and pressure be taken off GP out of hours and A&E.      

“Our job at RPS is to ensure as many community pharmacists as possible will be able to make the transition from the current arrangements to a future that will put community pharmacists at the heart of primary care. We will need to prepare the profession for new roles, with new skills and a new focus on one-to-one consultations. We will make sure our professional development programmes provide full support for RPS members for the increasing number of roles available.

“We will support members through the difficult time ahead. We have built stronger links with patient groups, local government and NHS England during the consultation phase. We have well advanced plans to support the profession through our professional development programmes, the RPS Faculty and RPS Foundation programmes, which are designed to help pharmacists gain recognition as well as skills for new roles in community pharmacy and elsewhere as they come on stream. The Government has said it wants to develop new models of care and is minded to incentivise change and we will help ensure that these promises become a sustainable reality.

“Although the focus right now will be on the funding announcement we have not lost focus on our strategic aim to gain a commitment from Government and NHS England that community pharmacy and pharmacists are integral to the future plan for the NHS."

Celesio UK managing director, Cormac Tobin:

· As winter pressures reach crisis point in the coming weeks community pharmacy is part of the solution, but they can't do this without adequate funding

“Whilst the DH has recognised that community pharmacy has a role to play, this does, however, feel like a cynical attempt by the government to divert attention away from the imminent swingeing cuts to our sector. The Community Pharmacy Forward View outlined our vision and although this announcement acknowledges the potential role pharmacists can play in alleviating the burden on our health service, it does not go nearly far enough.

“The NHS is about to hit crisis point as we head towards the winter months; queues at GP surgeries, a social care system on its knees and A&E departments woefully over stretched. Community pharmacy is part of the solution to increasing capacity in other parts of the system, yet we cannot do so without adequate funding. There is still uncertainty as we await the cuts announcement.

“Pilots, as we know, can come and go and don’t give pharmacists the assurance that these services will become a permanent feature or that sustainable funding will follow. We can’t change patient behaviour unless we commit to long-term changes and locally commissioned services do little to raise public awareness nationally.

“We know how much money community pharmacy currently saves the NHS – we can save it more. But not if it’s very future is undermined. Pharmacists are accessible, clinically trained experts, passionate about the health and wellbeing of their patients. But their genius needs to be released by government, not constrained by it.”

Well chief executive, John Nuttall:

· Urges government to revisit the evidence put forward in the reports 'The value of community pharmacy' and the 'Community pharmacy forward view' and work with the sector

“We are disappointed that the PSNC has been forced to reject the government’s proposal for community pharmacy funding. We believe the government has failed to fully consider the evidence put forward by the sector, that demonstrates the substantial social and health value of pharmacy.

"The NHS is experiencing unprecedented financial pressure, however community pharmacy has consistently delivered efficiency savings to the NHS, and the proposed cuts are simply not achievable. Currently pharmacy plays an integral role in supporting health and wellbeing. We are concerned that the scale and timing of the intended cuts would cause massive disruption and be detrimental to the wider NHS, putting A&E departments and GP practices, in particular, under additional strain.

"We would urge the government to revisit the evidence put forward in the reports, “The Value of Community Pharmacy”, and the “Community Pharmacy Forward View” and work with us to ensure a sustainable future.

“Whilst we have no choice but to prepare in case these cuts are imposed upon us, our priority will continue to be ensuring the highest standards of care for our patients.”

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