The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has announced that the pharmacy sector will not see additional funding as part of the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) for the two remaining years of the deal. 

This comes as part of the first Annual Review of the CPCF, which was delayed due to the ‘high volume of urgent Covid-19 work which has been prioritised by HM Government,’ PSNC explained.  

PSNC had requested a funding uplift last year, separate to the annual review so it could be included in discussions around the Government’s spending review, however this was rejected by the Government.  

The negotiator agreed at its November planning meeting to seek more funding again this year, ‘while recognising that the outcome of the spending review is likely to prevent any uplift to CPCF funding for the next two financial years’.  

Mike Dent, PSNC director of pharmacy funding, said last week (28 January) he thought the review would ‘fall short’ of contractors’ hopes as it did not result in any change to funding levels.  

He also said that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I) have ‘remained clear throughout that no funding uplift is available for Years 4 and 5 of the CPCF’. 

The global funding envelope for community pharmacy will therefore stay at £2.592 billion each year for the remainder of the 5-year CPCF deal. 

PSNC vice-chair and contractor Bharat Patel said the negotiator was ‘disappointed’ that the first annual review of the five-year community pharmacy contract in England has not led to ‘immediate and tangible outcomes and improvements for contractors’, PSNC vice-chair and contractor Bharat Patel said during the announcement last week (28 January). 

He also said that PSNC remains ‘deeply frustrated by Government’s refusal to agree a much-needed broader funding uplift for the sector, but we are determined to continue to look for better ways forward for the sector throughout 2022 and beyond’. 

However, Mr Dent explained that the committee will continue to ‘explore ways to bid again for additional funding’ this year.  

Lack of funding an ‘insult’ 

Mark Lyonette, chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA),  said the results of the annual contract review were an ‘insult to pharmacy teams, who have worked relentlessly hard to help keep the country on its feet during the Covid pandemic’. 

He said he believed the ‘tone’ of the announcement ‘indicates that cuts are likely to continue for at least the remainder of the five-year CPCF term’ which he deemed as unacceptable.  

‘Costs are up, in some cases very considerably, public demand for pharmacy support has surged, workload pressures have intensified and many staff are demotivated. All this when the NHS needs a well-functioning sector to help it clear the backlog of care caused by the pandemic.  

  'This should be a time for investment in achieving stated goals, not for continued attrition,’ he said.  

 ‘Instead of moving forwards into new clinical roles, which the NHS and DHSC say they want, pharmacies could now slip back, focus narrowly on dispensing and reduce access to care – the very opposite of the aspirations stated in the NHS Plan.’ 

 He added: ‘Governments, NHS and negotiators elsewhere in the UK are working to agreed visions and decently funded strategies. England should follow suit and jettison the nonsense that great services can be provided on a shorter and shorter shoestring.’ 

Recognition of challenges  

As part of the five-year deal agreement, all negotiating parties – including PSNC, the DHSC and NHSE&I – agreed to carry out ‘joint annual reviews of the CPCF in order to ensure and show value for taxpayers and the NHS, and continued progress against the direction of travel set out’, PSNC said.  

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

Despite there being ‘significant differences in opinion’ between PSNC and the NHS and DHSC during the review, there were also ‘areas of alignment’, including the sector’s strong performance throughout the pandemic and the need to remain focused on embedding the new pharmacy services. 

‘PSNC’s negotiating team fought hard to turn the review from simply being a progress report into something useful for the sector. We were pleased to get recognition of some of the challenges that pharmacies are facing,’ said Mr Patel. 

The review will have aided the next round of negotiations, which already include a commitment from all parties to consider measures for assessing capacity within community pharmacies and to conclude discussions on services fee setting principles., PSNC said.

Ahead of the next round of negotiations, DHSC is also actively pursuing changes to legislation and guidance on VAT with the treasury and HMRC to ‘enable better use of skill mix, as well as continuing discussions on regulatory changes’, PSNC said.  

In addition, DHSC and NHSE&I are considering commissioning priorities, with progress has already been made to ‘further incentivise the system to embed community pharmacy services such as the DMS and CPCS’.  

While PSNC is now considering a case for a new walk-in minor illness service which will be discussed further during the Year 4 negotiations. 

Last year, outgoing PSNC CEO called funding negotiations with the treasury an ‘uphill struggle’.