The sector deserves a funding uplift after years of hardship, says The Pharmacist's editor-in-chief Beth Kennedy

It seems like we’ve been keeping an eye out for news of the latest English funding contract for an eternity, but now it’s finally landed I’m wondering if it was worth the wait.

Sure, there are several real positives in there, such as the added stability for contractors from a five-year settlement. This will give the sector some much needed continuity, allowing contractors to plan further into the future rather than second guessing everything in case a game-changing funding announcement is just around the corner.

However, pessimist that I am, I can’t quite overlook the fact that the funding package is staying at a flat rate – the same £2.592bn per year as was imposed in 2016, when the funding agreement was lambasted as ‘cuts’ in comparison with the contract that came before.

Then there's the fact that medicines use reviews (MURs) and establishment payments are being phased out - both of them much-needed bottom-line boosters for many contractors. While the money for these is being reinvested back into the sector, in part through the new community pharmacist consultation service, there's no denying that the ideal situation for contractors would have been funding for both new and old parts of the contract, rather than an either/or situation.

But still, PSNC has been clear that this agreement marks a ‘series of agreements in principle’ rather than a contract set in stone. There's also the promise to renegotiate the particulars of the contract by each October, so hopefully we'll begin to see the emergence of new - and well-remunerated - clinical services, such as point-of-care testing to help tackle antibiotic resistance.

The powers that be have called for community pharmacists to prove the extent of their clinical capabilities. Now it's time for them to throw the sector a few cash-covered bones over the next five years so that it can show what it’s really capable of.