This site is intended for Healthcare Professionals only

DHSC hits back at independent panel’s funding criticisms


DHSC hits back at independent panel’s funding criticisms

The Department of Health and Social Care has rejected the findings of an independent panel that the Government has not properly addressed funding issues in the English community pharmacy sector. 

Earlier today (October 19) the DHSC published its response to a July report from the panel, which was appointed by the parliamentary health select committee to review departmental progress against a range of goals in both community and hospital pharmacy.

While the panel identified good progress in areas like the launch of the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service, it gave overall ‘needs improvement’ ratings when considering the DHSC’s work to protect access to local pharmacies in areas with less provision and its commitment to review the sector’s funding model, in particular the balance between public monies used to fund dispensing and those spent on clinical services. 

While the expert panel determined that the Pharmacy Access Scheme (PhAS) – which is aimed at supporting “smaller pharmacies” in geographically isolated regions to stay open through “a small regular top up to income” – has not been allocated sufficient funding to prevent closures and is too narrowly focused to address the sector’s challenges, today the DHSC countered that the PhAS “was never intended as a general means to prevent closures or ensure fixed funding levels”.

“It aims to provide a certain stability to business owners and is not sufficient alone to ensure business availability,” the department argued, claiming that there are “other additional provisions in place” to maintain patient access such as locally commissioned pharmaceutical services.

On the DHSC’s commitment to review the sector’s funding model, the department said it ‘does not agree’ with the ‘requires improvement rating’. The DHSC argued that overall funding levels are “subject to affordability” and to agreements reached with the sector around service delivery and claimed it has taken a number of steps to review the balance between spending on dispensing and services, for example the 2019 publication of the five-year contractual framework and holding meetings with Community Pharmacy England “on a regular basis”. 

It added thar NHS England has commissioned an economic review into costs for providing pharmaceutical services. 

The DHSC welcomed the panel’s finding that the use of the CPCS to integrate pharmacies with local GP surgeries since 2019 has been largely effective, but disputed claims that concerns around inadequate funding amounted to “an agreed position across the sector” as it said “the funding and support were agreed early in the process”.

Responding to the panel’s criticism of the Discharge Medicines Service, the DHSC acknowledged concerns around a lack of interoperable IT systems, as well as comments that the scope of the service is “too narrow” to facilitate significant referral numbers for many pharmacies.

The DHSC said it is working with NHS trusts “to realise the demonstrated benefits of this new service for patients”.

Copy Link copy link button