The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has anticipated 'challenging conversations' with the Government on funding and the way community pharmacists are reimbursed as negotiations for the 2019/20 contract kick off.
The negotiator's 'complex talks' with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England have now commenced, PSNC announced today (9 April), with the future of medicines use reviews (MURs), how money from the Pharmacy Integration Fund (PhIF) will be spent and the future of the Healthy Living Pharmacy model also likely to be discussed.
PSNC also expects the possible roll-out of a national NHS 111 minor illnesses referral service and a GP-to-pharmacy direct referral scheme as set out in the NHS Long-Term Plan (LTP) to come up in talks, it said.
The DHSC and NHS England have already agreed on a set of proposals for the upcoming contract, which have been shared with PSNC and will form the basis of negotiations between the three organisations.
It has been agreed that the ongoing negotiations will be confidential to help foster 'frank and open discussions', PSNC said. Therefore, none of the negotiating parties will make any further comment on the talks 'until there are some conclusions to communicate', it added.
PSNC's representatives in the discussions will include a mixture of independent pharmacy contractors and representatives from the multiples.
Committed to 'best possible deal'
PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes said: 'PSNC is pleased to be able to begin these negotiations; the outcome of which will be absolutely critical for all pharmacy contractors in England.
'There are going to be some difficult conversations over the coming months but our negotiating team includes experienced PSNC members from both the independent and multiple sectors, so contractors can be assured that we will be well equipped and absolutely committed to getting the best possible deal for community pharmacy.
'Our priority is to seek a sustainable future for community pharmacy to enable us to better utilise the skills and knowledge of pharmacy teams to help people stay well in the community.'
More efficient services
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said: 'Community pharmacies... are crucial for our prevention agenda to help more people stay well, a core part of the NHS LTP.
'As part of the LTP for the NHS, we want to see pharmacies deliver a wider range of more efficient services and give patients more control over their care and personal health. The start of these negotiations signals an important step in delivering that ambition.'
'A first in recent times'
The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) lauded the announcement as 'a first for pharmacy in England in recent times'.
NPA chief executive Mark Lyonette said: 'This is perhaps a sign of a maturing relationship between the sector and its biggest paymaster, the NHS.'
He added: 'The current financial pressures are a powerful disincentive to pharmacy owners to invest in NHS services. The negotiations provide an opportunity to change that, so pharmacies can step up to meet the challenges laid out in the NHS long term plan.
'A successful outcome would include a clear direction on service development and a multi-year settlement, giving pharmacy owners the confidence to modernise and invest in patient services.'
In February, PSNC outlined its wishlist for the upcoming contract, including a multi-year funding deal and 'recognition' for the investment pharmacists have made into implementing the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD).