It is ‘not yet clear’ when negotiations for the new contractual framework will conclude, Community Pharmacy England (CPE) has said – despite the start of April marking the end of the existing contract agreed in the summer of 2019.

With talks on arrangements for the coming 2024/25 financial year still in progress with the Department of Health (DHSC) and Social Care and NHS England, fee levels will remain the same and existing service arrangements will continue as previously announced, the negotiator confirmed.

CPE has also argued for a freeze on margin adjustments within the drug tariff, but some changes have been imposed by DHSC.

Any adjustments to fees or margin needed to deliver the total funding sum for 2024/25 will be made later in the year once negotiations have concluded, CPE said.

CPE’s negotiating team includes independent pharmacy owners, representatives of the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) and non-CCA multiples.

While the team is ‘fully focused on the very desperate state that community pharmacy businesses now find themselves in’, CPE said it was ‘not yet clear when the negotiations will conclude’.

Janet Morrison, CPE chief executive, added that the team was ‘very cognisant of the urgent need for pharmacy businesses to have clarity about the future, but at the same time focused on getting the best deal for pharmacy owners on the table as soon as we possibly can’.

She said: ‘We have been warning the government and NHS England both privately and publicly of the very dire consequences – to both pharmacies and their patients – should they continue along this path of attrition.’

Alongside the negotiations, CPE said it is continuing work to monitor funding and margin delivery, as well as Pharmacy First implementation, to argue for improvements to funding and the medicines supply chain, and to leverage stakeholder support.

The negotiator is encouraging pharmacy owners to write to their MPs about ongoing pressures and share any financial details that they can.

CPE’s 2024 Pressures Survey closes today just before midnight.