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Government announces massive cuts to community pharmacy funding

Cuts amounting to 7.4% will begin to be implemented from 1 December

Ingrid Torjesen

Thursday, 20 October 2016

The Government has announced it is implementing massive cuts to the pharmacy community pharmacy budget, which have been predicted could lead to the closure of one in four pharmacies.

The cuts, to be implemented from 1 December, will cut this year’s £2.8 billion budget by 4% to £2.687 billion representing a cut of 12% for the final four months of 2016/7. A further 3.4% cut will be implemented in 2017/8, reducing annual funding to £2.592 billion.

In a statement to the House of Commons, Health Minister David Mowat said that overall pharmacy spend has increased by 40% and that over the same period the number of pharmacists had increased by over 18% to over 11,500.

“At a time in which the overall NHS budget is under pressure and we need to find £22 billion in efficiency savings, it is right that we examine all areas of spend and look for improvements,” he said. “We do not believe that the current funding system does enough to promote either efficiency or quality. Nor does it promote the integration with the rest of the NHS.”

He outlined that the average pharmacy receives nearly £1 million per annum for the NHS goods and services that it provides, of which around £220,000 is direct income. This includes a fixed sum payment, called the establishment fee, of £25,000 per annum for most pharmacies, which he said was an inefficient allocation of NHS funds when 40% of pharmacies are now in clusters of three or more and within 10 mins walk of each other.

Pharmacies in areas with fewer pharmacies and higher health needs would be fully protected from the impact of the cuts through a pharmacy access scheme, Mowat said. A list of these pharmacies has been published and it includes all pharmacies which are more than one mile in distance from another pharmacy.

Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England Keith Ridge said: "The public can be reassured that while efficiencies are being asked of community pharmacy just as they are of other parts of the NHS, there is still sufficient funding to ensure there are accessible and convenient local NHS pharmacy services across England. The NHS is committed to a positive future for pharmacists and community pharmacy.

He added that NHS England has secured £42 million of funding for 2016-18 for a new Pharmacy Integration Fund which will “support community pharmacy to develop new clinical pharmacy services, working practices and online support to meet the public’s expectations for a modern NHS”.

“In addition, the NHS is now funding a big expansion of 1,500 clinical pharmacists in local primary care clinics and GP surgeries," he said.

Rob Darracott, chief executive of Pharmacy Voice, said: “We have spent the last 10 months explaining to them the value of community pharmacy, the pressure we take off other parts of the NHS and the money we save the Government by keeping patients out of GP surgeries and A&E.

“The public have made it clear to them that they expect their local pharmacies to expand their role in the community and MPs from every party have outlined how cuts will harm the interests of their constituents.

“Yet, despite this opposition, the Government appears hell-bent on pressing ahead with this incoherent, self-defeating and wholly unacceptable policy and have replaced previous warm words with increasingly aggressive rhetoric”.

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