The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) announced today (28 April) that negotiations on the arrangements for the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) in 2021/22 have now begun.

The annual negotiations, which are taking place between PSNC and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), were delayed this year due to the ‘high volume of urgent Covid-19 work which has been prioritised by HM Government,’ PSNC explained.

The discussions will cover all services, as well as pharmacy funding and other arrangements for pharmacies in 2021/22. They will also cover any progress or delays which have occurred as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In its update, PSNC also said that separate negotiations on additional pharmacy funding to make up for money lost during the Covid-19 pandemic are currently still ‘ongoing between PSNC and the Government’.

Simon Dukes, PSNC chief executive said it was ‘unlikely’ that any final decisions would be made on the CPCF until the body has ‘clarity’ on additional pharmacy funding related to Covid costs. 

‘Resolving these costs has been urgent for many months, and contractors questions must be answered and a satisfactory deal reached before we can move any further forwards on other matters,’ he explained. 

‘Contractors who have been following our negotiations updates will know what we are up against – PSNC has already rejected one Government offer on Covid costs, and we received no response to our autumn bid for a broader funding uplift.’

He added: ‘I have talked of the blocks we repeatedly face – with officials challenging us on costs at every step and refusing to reward us based on the value we deliver – and despite the phenomenal efforts of pharmacies in the past year, I do not expect these negotiations to be any easier.

‘The PSNC Committee is deeply concerned about the lack of resolution on Covid costs and they are worried about workload and finances in the year ahead: we will do all that we can to make this as manageable as possible for contractors,’ he said.

Commenting on the announcement, Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) said it was ‘disappointing’ that there is still no agreement regarding the reimbursement of community pharmacies for Covid-19 induced costs.  

‘Yet again this profession and this sector are not getting the recognition for the selfless ways pharmacy teams put themselves out there on the frontline demonstrating resilience and agility during the pandemic,’ she said.

‘It’s clear the public holds pharmacies in the highest regard. Going forward it’s vital this role is appreciated by the Government and pharmacies are able to offer greater services and help to relieve pressures elsewhere in the health system.’ 

Andrew Lane, chair of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), said that it was ‘massively disappointing’ that there had been no progress on Covid costs incurred by pharmacies. 

‘The Prime Minister’s warm words about the heroics of pharmacy teams during the pandemic will sound very hollow unless he keeps his promise to reimburse pharmacies for the costs they have incurred to keep vital services running,’ he said.

‘Community pharmacies have kept their side of the bargain – staying open to keep people well, save lives and help the country out of lockdown. In serving the nation, pharmacies have incurred considerable extra costs that natural justice demands to be repaid.’ 

He added: The NHS would not have been able to cope over the past 12 months without an accessible network of pharmacies near to where people live, work and shop.

‘We need this sorted quickly, to avoid a collapse in morale and the acceleration of pharmacy closures.’