Realising the potential of community pharmacy is a necessity for NHS sustainability in the face of the predicted £2.5bn overspend by hospital trusts.

A report released today (15 March 2016) by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has found the government has not acted quickly enough to keep acute hospital trusts in financial balance.

The parliamentary spending watchdog has also concluded there is “not yet a convincing plan for closing the £22bn efficiency gap” and that data used to estimate cost savings targets was “seriously flawed”.

Pharmacy Voice has responded to the Sustainability and financial performance of acute hospital trusts 2015-2016 assessment to highlight the role community pharmacy can play in the wider NHS.

“The seeming lack of robust data underpinning the Government’s cost projections is particularly frustrating, given that evidence of potential efficiencies delivered through community pharmacy has gone unchallenged for over a decade and yet has never been properly acted upon,” a spokesperson said.

“This report demonstrates clearly that delivering on the potential of community pharmacy is no longer a luxury – it is an absolute necessity to the long-term sustainability of the wider NHS.

“The introduction of a 6.1% cut to the sector’s funding is entirely the wrong way of saving money, as it only puts more pressure on other parts of the NHS which are, according to this report, already unsustainable financially.”

Finances across the NHS have become increasingly tight with health funding rising at a historically low rate of 1.8% in real terms between 2010/11 and 2014/15.

Meg Hillier, chair of the PAC, said: “Central government has done too little to support trusts facing financial problems with the results that overall deficits are growing at a truly alarming rate.

“Crude efficiency targets have made matters worse.”

Over the last three financial years, the financial health of NHS trusts and NHS foundation trusts has plummeted.

In 2012/13, trusts reported a £592m surplus, before plunging into a £91m deficit in 2013/14 and further sinking to a deficit of £843m in 2014/15.

This financial year it is predicted the total overspend could rise to £2.5bn.

“This report comes as no surprise to anyone who has been following the finances of NHS trusts and foundation trusts in recent years. The big question is what we do about it,” said Rob Webster, chief executive of NHS Confederation.

“There is an urgent and pressing need to reform the financial system of reward and risk in the NHS.

“Too often the incentives work against whole person care.

“Costs in one part of the service leading to improved integration and savings in another part of the service carry no incentives or double running support, just financial pressure and possible censure from individual regulators. This must change.”