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Funding for community pharmacy services to be cut by £170 million

Efficiencies won’t have any impact on quality of care or access, argues government

Caroline White

Friday, 18 December 2015

Central government funding for community pharmacy services is to be cut by 6% (£170 million) from next October, the government has announced in an open letter sent to the head of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC).

The cut is part of the drive for greater efficiency and productivity in the NHS, as outlined in the Five Year Forward View, and as a core part of NHS primary care, “community pharmacy has an important contribution to make as the NHS rises to all of these challenges,” says the letter, sent yesterday.

“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,” it says.

“The government believes those efficiencies can be made within community pharmacy without comprising the quality of services or public access to them,” it says.

“In some parts of the country there are more pharmacies than are necessary to maintain good access. Forty per cent of pharmacies are in a cluster where there are three or more pharmacies within ten minutes’ walk. The development of large-scale automated dispensing, such as ‘hub and spoke’ arrangements, also provides opportunities for efficiencies,” it continues.

The government is keen to make greater use of community pharmacists’ skills in health promotion and prevention, in supporting people to self-care rather than pitch up to their GP or local A&E, and in helping to deliver on its promise of seven-day health and care services.

“Recent initiatives – such as clinical pharmacists in GP practices – will promote pharmacy and pharmacists in the short-term. However, we would like to take this further and bring pharmacy even closer into the wider primary care and community health system,” says the letter.

“We want pharmacists to bring their skills more to GP practices, care homes and urgent care, using those opportunities to improve and protect people’s health, aligning with the emerging new models of care. So, alongside the funding discussion with the community pharmacy sector, the Department will consult on how best to introduce a Pharmacy Integration Fund to help transform how pharmacists and community pharmacy will operate in the NHS, bringing clear benefits to patients and the public."

Rob Darracott, chief executive of Pharmacy Voice, which represents community pharmacists, commented: “Announcing a 6% funding cut to community pharmacy from next October over six months is certain to hurt the sector.

“Many contractors, currently in the midst of the Christmas rush, will be rightly anxious as to how this £170m cut will affect their patients, their businesses, their livelihoods and those of their pharmacy teams and other employees,” he said.

He added: “It is a complex picture and there are many items being discussed from hub and spoke dispensing, the role for clinical pharmacy to pharmacy numbers. At this stage we do not have the detail of how these elements can affect the bottom line. What we do know is that the expertise and knowledge of how to achieve change is within the sector, rather than in Whitehall. Community pharmacy has already delivered 4% efficiency savings to the NHS which is proof that we already play a highly efficient part in NHS service delivery.”

Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's English Board Sandra Gidley added:

"The 6% cut will have a substantial impact on pharmacy business owners, their employees and locums. The RPS English Board believes that any cut to community pharmacy, and primary care generally, is short sighted if the government is committed to its stated aim of investing in primary care and prevention of ill health."

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