The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has commissioned a consultancy firm to conduct an economic assessment into the effects of the frozen funding on community pharmacy and policy framework in England. 

The investigation, conducted by consultancy firm Ernst and Young, will assess the robustness of the community pharmacy market, the pharmacy group has confirmed.

It will also look into the ‘restricted’ flat funding that the sector received as part of the five-year funding deal in the context of the broader economic environment, and how it may impact pharmacies’ capacity and ability to achieve NHS objectives.

Speaking at the Sigma Pharmaceuticals conference on Tuesday (19 February),  acting chairman of the NPA, Andrew Lane said it was the NPA’s duty, ‘as the voice of independent community pharmacy, to speak out passionately but also factually’.

He said: ‘Ministers and NHS officials say they want community pharmacies to be the first port of call for common illnesses, to help people stay well, to take on more clinical services and to relieve pressure on other parts of the system.

‘This can only be achieved on a sustainable basis if resources match the level of ambition. Therefore, we hope they will welcome this economic study as a serious contribution to the evidence base that underpins the development of health & social care policy,’ the chairman added. 

Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive Simon Dukes backed the assessment.

He said: ‘This is a really useful initiative from the NPA. We will be supporting the review team in whatever ways we can, and their final report will provide a useful evidence base for us to use in the CPCF annual review process.’

'We expected those discussions with the Government to be very much focused on contractors’ costs and capacity this year,’ he added. 

The five-year funding deal on the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) published in July announced that current year-on-year funding levels will remain unchanged since 2018, which secures funding of £2.592bn per annum for community pharmacy contractors. 

Pharmacy organisations expressed mixed feelings at the time towards the new deal.

The agreement is in effect until 2024 but has built-in annual reviews to check on implementation funding and effectiveness so that elements can be adjusted if necessary.

The firm commissioned by the NPA will conduct literature searches, interviews with stakeholders and survey of NPA members in the hope they will reveal current pressure points and the impact of foreseeable changes in funding and costs.

The results from the investigation, due to be completed in June, will be made available to PSNC, the NHS and Department of Health and Social Care, so that it can be considered during the first annual review of funding under the five-year contractual settlement.

Ernest and Young will also explore what all this means for GPs, hospitals patients and wider society.

When the  English community pharmacy funding deal was first announced in July the NPA said that the Government must be prepared to direct more money into community pharmacy if it becomes clear that funding is insufficient to maintain current core services. It must then invest in positive new developments like the community pharmacist consultation service. 

In October RPS president, Sandra Gidley warned in an exclusive interview with The Pharmacist that the frozen five-year funding settlement for community pharmacy – agreed in July – could affect patient safety due to increased pressure on pharmacy teams.