The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has called for the upcoming English pharmacy contract to ‘be fair to independent pharmacies’.
In a statement published yesterday (11 June) the lobbying group urged those negotiating the community pharmacy contractual framework to explore different funding models that rely less on margin.
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) began its contract negotiations with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England in April and said it anticipated ‘challenging conversations’ around funding and reimbursement.
PSNC said it is 'always pleased to receive proposals' and 'considers all points raised by contractors very carefully'.
The DHSC declined to comment while negotiations are ongoing.
The current system disadvantages independents who ‘are at the mercy of factors outside their control’, such as hikes in medicines prices, the NPA said.
The statement said: ‘The current system does not deliver the margin element of funding equitably across the sector.
‘Most independents are disadvantaged by averaging, because smaller businesses cannot easily spread risk or hope to have losses averaged out.’
End the ‘dire financial situation’
The NPA also called for a multi-year funding settlement to encourage contractors to invest in NHS services.
The ‘dire financial situation’ has forced many pharmacies to make cuts to staff and services as funding has declined, it said.
It continued: ‘More funds should be made available to community pharmacy where we can demonstrate that the sector is delivering on NHS priorities.
‘To make the necessary investments in staff, services and tech, pharmacy owners need to know there is a realistic prospect of a return.’
This should come with ‘clear direction’ on the development of clinical services to build on the ambitions outlined in the NHS Long-Term Plan, the NPA added.
In February, PSNC director of funding Mike Dent said the negotiator hoped to win a contract spanning several years instead of just one.
Reform concessionary pricing
The NPA believes urgent reform is needed to ensure community pharmacy is sustainable and contractors are not working at a loss.
Its statement said: ‘Day by day, the gap is growing between what pharmacies have the capacity and impetus to achieve and what NHS England wants them to deliver.
‘An urgent response is required to stop irreparable damage to the network.’
The concessionary pricing system should be reformed as a priority so that payments are more reliable and pharmacy businesses can plan ahead, the NPA suggested.
‘Decline is not inevitable’
The NPA also urged the negotiators to ‘be ambitious about the future’ and look to tech and integration with other health services so that community pharmacies are ‘recognised as the front door to the NHS’.
It said: ‘This is a significant moment in the long history of community pharmacy and we hope all parties to the negotiation will be ambitious about the future. Decline is not inevitable.
‘The contract negotiations now underway are a chance to make a decisive shift, incentivising clinical services, integrated with safe access to medicines.’
The NPA said it has written to PSNC with more details on its hopes for the contract and is ‘confident’ its views will be considered.
An NPA spokesperson said: ‘PSNC performs its very difficult functions diligently, seeking to balance the needs of all contractors, so we are confident they will take our views into account as they continue negotiations with NHS England and the DHSC’.
PSNC chief Simon Dukes said: 'PSNC is always pleased to receive proposals relating to the negotiations on the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF), from both inside and outside the sector.
'Committee Members, including the NPA’s elected representatives on PSNC, also bring the views of the contractors they represent to all PSNC meetings and decisions.'
He added: 'Negotiations with government are, of course, confidential. Nevertheless, we consider all points raised by contractors very carefully and we are always keen to receive evidence that can support our work on costing pharmacy services in terms of both delivery and value.'