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psnc logoJanuary 20 2016

PSNC says it will not commence any negotiation on the community pharmacy contract for 2016-17 until the Department of Health is more forthcoming.

In a strongly worded letter to the Department, PSNC Chief Executive Sue Sharpe says the Department “is entirely silent” on how the Department’s proposals would be achieved. The DoH wants to cut pharmacy contractor remuneration by 6% while working towards a clinically focused community pharmacy service.

Mrs Sharpe says that the proposals are being driven forward despite the Department having a “real paucity of knowledge”, and that it “has no plans to consider further service development in 2016-17 that could make progress towards this ambition.” In addition, the DoH letter with the contract proposal for 2016-17 contains “nothing whatsoever that contributes positively to driving forward a clinically focussed community pharmacy service.”

PSNC is now calling on the Department to clarify its proposals, as it is concerned that the planned cuts in 2016-17 might be followed by “a larger funding cut in 2017-18 alongside reductions in pharmacy numbers and a drive towards a commoditised supply service, bypassing access to the support and advice available at community pharmacies.”

In her letter to Will Cavendish, Director General, Innovation, Growth and Technology at the DoH, and Keith Ridge, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, Mrs Sharpe says: “The professed ambition to develop a more clinically focussed community pharmacy service is entirely incompatible with the cut in funding of £170m specified in your letter.

“The impact of cutting funding would be to reduce pharmacy’s ability to move in the direction you say you want. The only short term measure by which pharmacies can reduce costs in the light of a reduction in funding will be to cut staffing levels, and the damage to the confidence and stability of the sector resulting from the extraordinary measures you have taken can only impair pharmacies’ contribution to keeping people well and out of GP and urgent care settings.”

Mrs Sharpe puts on record that she asked for additional figures to be made available so that PSNC could discuss the proposals at it January Board meeting, but heard nothing from the Department. She also points out that the DoH letter referred to analysis and modelling, again something that has not been made available to PSNC.

Among elements of the proposals that Mrs Sharpe says she has been able to elicit is that the aim is to seek to reduce the number of low dispensing pharmacies and to reduce the number of pharmacies ‘in a cluster’.

Mrs Sharpe continues: “No evaluation of the care provided by a pharmacy should be based on such a crude measure as dispensing volume, but there has been nothing to suggest you have examined the levels of advice or other elements of the pharmacy service provided by these pharmacies, such as provision of compliance aid dispensing and support for self-care.

“It seems clear that you are proposing to drive ahead to radically change the market with a real paucity of knowledge essential for good decision making.”

National Pharmacy Association Chairman Ian Strachan said Mrs Sharpe’s letter “has put the ball firmly in the Government’s court with this letter – and held them robustly to account.

“What we have seen so far is a jumble of half-explained ideas coming out of government, and a justifiably worried and angry response from the profession. The Government proposals are light on detail, but the direction of policy is already clear, and independents must mobilise to oppose it. It is a drift away from valuing local pharmacies and a retreat from any serious effort to maximise the benefits of the bricks and mortar pharmacy network.”

Mr Strachan has written to his MP and urged all NPA members to do the same. “This is about beginning to mobilise political support across the country for what could be a long and difficult struggle ahead,” he said.

On Friday, Sir Kevin Barron MP, Chair of the Parliamentary All Party Pharmacy Group, said the DoH letter “raises a number of questions and concerns. It has wide ranging implications for pharmacy as a whole and for all of primary care.”

He and other APPG officers were due to meet with the health minister with responsibility for pharmacy, Alistair Burt MP.

In addition, the APPG inquiry into the role of pharmacy in primary care will now focus on the implications of the plans set out in the letter, said Sir Kevin. “The minister has agreed to appear at an APPG session and answer questions on his plans. Details of this session will be published in the coming weeks.”

As part of the pharmacy-wide response to the Department’s proposals, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society has developed a new community pharmacy reforms hub on its website. It explains what the community pharmacy reforms are, what the RPS is doing, and information about how pharmacists can get involved.

“We recognise that this reduction in funding will have a substantial impact on pharmacy business owners, their employees and locums. This is a worrying time for many of our members, who are concerned about what these reforms might mean for their future and that of their profession,” said the Society.

“We believe it is our role as your professional body to ensure that as many pharmacists as possible are able to make the transition from the current arrangements to a future that will put pharmacists at the heart of patient care.”

The NPA is holding a webinar on Monday January 25 at 7pm addressing the subject: ‘Cuts and ‘efficiencies’ in community pharmacy: what exactly do the Government’s proposals mean?’.

Links:

PSNC announcement

PSNC letter to the DoH

APPG announcement

RPS announcement

RPS Community Reforms hub

NPA comment

NPA announcement

Today’s Pharmacist coverage of contract cut proposals

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