Financial blow dealt to community pharmacy

Community pharmacy has been dealt a “financial blow” says the PSNC. A letter from chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge to PSNC and the director general, innovation, growth and technology, Department of Health detailed cuts to pharmacy funding of 6% for 2016/2017, to £2.63 billion.

“In the Spending Review the Government re-affirmed the need for the NHS to deliver £22 billion in efficiency savings by 2020/21. Community pharmacy is a core part of NHS primary care and has an important contribution to make as the NHS rises to all of these challenges,” says the open letter.

“As well as providing more effective patient and public friendly services, community pharmacy also has to play its part in delivering the efficiencies required by the Government’s recently published Spending Review and to support the need for greater efficiency and productivity as outlined in the Five Year Forward View. “This will involve reductions in NHS funding for community pharmacies in England.

For 2015/16, the funding commitment for pharmacies in England is £2.8 billion under the community pharmacy contractual framework (essential and advanced services). In 2016/17 this funding will be no higher than £2.63 billion. We anticipate that the funding reductions will take effect from October 2016, giving community pharmacies time to prepare for this change.

“These consultation processes are an important opportunity to help further develop the proposals and inform the decisions taken by Department of Health Ministers, which will shape community pharmacy’s role in the NHS in future. We look forward to working together to transform community pharmacy for 2016/17 and beyond, to the benefit of patients and the public.”

Response from Sue Sharpe, PSNC

As part of her response Sue Sharpe said: “At a time when primary care and urgent care services are struggling to manage demand, this is a profoundly damaging move. It will deliver a destructive blow to the support community pharmacies can offer to patients and the public. Community pharmacies provide vital healthcare and advice which reduces the burden on GPs and urgent care services and helps the NHS to cope with winter pressures.

Pharmacy owners, whose funding has been under pressure and who have been absorbing efficiencies over the last few years, will be incredulous that the Government: “Believes those efficiencies can be made within community pharmacy without compromising the quality of services or patient access to them.”

“The letter speaks of the potential for far greater use of community pharmacy and pharmacists in prevention of ill health, support for healthy living and minor ailments, but almost inevitably the impact of the cuts will force pharmacies to reduce staffing levels and direct more people to GP or urgent care. We remain staggered at the decision by the NHS to abandon negotiations on a national minor ailments service over the summer, a move entirely inconsistent with exploiting the potential identified in the letter.

“The letter includes a jumble of proposed measures, including centralised dispensing and online services. Reflecting the view of the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer that there are too many pharmacies, the letter says: “In some parts of the country there are more pharmacies than are necessary to maintain good access.”

“The threat to the network is clear but the letter is very short on detail on how the NHS will manage this “clustering” of pharmacies.”

PSNC will meet in early January to agree how to deal with the issue, says Mrs Sharpe.

To read the letter click here 

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