Community pharmacy may have to ‘pause’ advanced services, chief negotiator warns
Community pharmacy contractors in England may need to “pause” the provision of advanced services to manage capacity and demand, the chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said. The Pharmaceutical Journal.
In a March 23, 2022 interview, Janet Morrison warned that without increased funding before the end of the ‘Community pcontractual framework for harmfulness: 2019 to 2024‘, the sector will be “in a rather difficult situation”.
Morrison joined the PSNC on March 1, 2022, days after negotiators entered talks with the government over the provision of pharmacies during the fourth year of the five-year contractwhich promised stable funding until 2023/2024.
Without additional funding, Morrison said the community pharmacy “is going to be in for a rough patch.”
“We will start to see the results of pressures on funding and capacity. So it can be closures, further reductions in opening hours and temporary closures because they just can’t find a pharmacist,” she said.
The PSNC’s most recent calls for more funding were met with a “flat out rejection” from the Treasury during negotiations over the third year of the contract.
Morrison added that “entrepreneurs are already making choices about ‘do I sign up for all the advanced services now or do I take a break to integrate what we have?’. So people will be thinking to pause that. And some may even consider pausing advanced services altogether.”
When asked if the PSNC would advise contractors to stop offering advanced services, she replied, “I can’t say where we’re going to end up.”
“But what I would say is that from what I’ve heard, through the committee and the contractors, there are a lot of people saying ‘we can’t take anything more’.
“You could offer us the most attractive service that is scalable and makes sense in the long term, but we don’t have the capacity to react.
“I visited a pharmacy last week who said we wanted to do these things…but we need to take a break as our staff are exhausted. We are working harder and longer and we need to take a break before we can do anything new,” she continued.
“So I think it might well be that people are just saying, I can’t take any more at the moment. That might well be a response from [the] PSNC because of what we are told.
Advanced services include the ‘NHS Community Pharmacy Consultation Service’, ‘NHS Community Pharmacy Blood Pressure Check Service’ and ‘NHS Community Pharmacy Smoking Cessation Service’.
While the negotiations between the PSNC and the government remain confidential, the Association of Company Chemists Recommended a £656 million increase in funding for community pharmacy services each year to create a return on investment of at least £1.9 billion by “delivering more clinical services to patients and adding much needed capacity to general medicine”.
Morrison said that, in the negotiations, the PSNC “demonstrates the value of what the sector has delivered” during the pandemic and raises the issue of “funding pressures and capacity pressures on the sector”.
The CEO also said The Pharmaceutical Journal that closure rates in 2021 were “masked” by funding to cover costs associated with COVID-19 and by a larger drug margin that has not yet been clawed back by the government.
The Pharmaceutical Journal previously revealed that the net number of pharmacy closures halved in 2021 compared to 2020.
Meanwhile, in October 2021, Morrison’s predecessor, Simon Dukes, advised pharmacies to consider offering private services, warning that the government still believes “it can make cuts” in the sector.