The Government has agreed to award community pharmacy a ‘landmark’ five-year funding settlement totalling almost £13bn, it was announced this afternoon (22 July).
English community pharmacies will receive one £2.592bn funding package per year until the end of 2023/24 in accordance with a ‘series of agreements in principle’ by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I).
This means that current year-on-year funding levels remain unchanged since last year, although the new contract will spend the money on different priorities, outlined below.
Although the key principles of the contract have been agreed, contractors should expect further details over the coming months, PSNC said. New services and payments will be negotiated and agreed on by October each year.
The agreement includes a number of key changes to the current contract, including:
- The phasing out of medicines use reviews (MURs) and the establishment payment from October, although the funding for both is being reinvested back into the sector.
- Contractors will be given monthly transitional payments in the second half of 2019/20 and again in 2020/21 to reflect costs incurred from integrating into primary care networks (PCNs), preparing for safer shortage protocols (SSPs) and implementing the Falsified Medicines Directive.
- A new national service, the community pharmacist consultation service, will be commissioned from the autumn, bringing together the NHS urgent supply advanced service (NUMSAS) and the digital minor ailments referral service (DMIRS) into one service.
- The quality payments scheme has been renamed the pharmacy quality scheme. As with the quality payments scheme, the new scheme will allow contractors to claim back money for meeting certain quality targets.
- The pharmacy access scheme will continue
- The pharmacy integration fund will finance pilot services which could be commissioned nationally if they are successful.
PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes said: ‘The negotiations on the [contract] for 2019/20 began in April with an offer of a two-year pharmacy funding settlement from the Government. Since that proposal was made, the discussions have been all-embracing.
‘After many hundreds of hours of negotiations, the PSNC negotiating team has been able to secure five years of protected funding and certainty for community pharmacy contractors.
‘Recent NHSE&I board finance papers revealed that the NHS fully expected a cut in community pharmacy funding to have been made in 2018/19 – with therefore a funding level in 2019/20 of lower than £2.592bn. Over the past four months, PSNC has put a considerable amount of data to DHSC and NHSE&I to demonstrate the rising cost base of the sector, as well as continually highlighting the value of pharmacy services, in order to try and persuade Government to reverse that planned downwards trajectory of pharmacy funding.
While we have not succeeded in getting an increase in the overall sum, we have secured a commitment from Government to a protected £13bn over five years.’
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘I am delighted to set out this landmark five-year settlement for the community pharmacy contractual framework which, from October 2019, will expand and transform the role of community pharmacies and embed them as the first port of call for minor illness and health advice in England.
‘Community pharmacies are a vital and trusted part of our NHS. We need to draw on your expertise, your experience, and the invaluable human connection you have with your communities. Through this deal I expect to see community pharmacies further integrated within local primary care networks, doing more to protect public health and taking on an expanded role in urgent care and medicines safety.’
More to follow…