The Government and NHS are ‘absolutely determined’ to make savings across the community pharmacy sector, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said.
Speaking yesterday (6 October) at the Pharmacy Show 2019 in Birmingham, PSNC chief Simon Dukes said the negotiator accepted the five-year funding deal announced in July to protect the sector from ‘completely unacceptable’ further cuts.
He said: ‘It was about securing £13bn in future funding for as long as possible and to protect [the funding] from the grasping hands of the Treasury for as long as possible.’
PSNC director of pharmacy funding Mike Dent added: ‘[The Government] is absolutely determined that there are savings to be made in the act of dispensing by the greater use of technology.’
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said: 'The recently-announced five-year framework sets out how we will decommission some existing services and how we will work with NHS England, NHS Improvement and the PSNC to maximise the opportunities of automation and technological developments to further release pharmacists’ time.'
They added: 'We have been clear that expanding the role of community pharmacy is dependent on freeing up pharmacists from undertaking some of their existing work.'
The Treasury has been approached for comment.
‘Obsessed with clustering’
As well as being ‘adamant’ that savings can be made in community pharmacy, the NHS is ‘still obsessed with clustering’ – the belief that there are too many pharmacies near to each other – Mr Dent told delegates.
This is another reason why the NHS and the Government are not prepared to increase community pharmacy funding, he added.
Mr Dukes said: ‘The Treasury was purely focused on trying to commission the most efficient dispensing service from as few pharmacies as possible.’
The deal ‘was not the one [PSNC] wanted’ but the Treasury was ‘immovable’, he added.
In the new contract, the Government committed to making it easier for contractors to merge with other pharmacies.
This is because the funding ‘is still supporting more pharmacies in some places than may be necessary’, according to the contract document.
However, Mr Dukes said that the community pharmacy consultation service (CPCS) – which will see pharmacists paid £14 for each consultation resulting from an NHS 111 referral for minor illnesses or urgent prescriptions – makes a strong case against consolidation.
He said: ‘The more I see the detail of the CPCS and how much potential there is for future services, [the more] the network of 11,600 pharmacies seems as badly needed now as ever.’